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15 



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SEPTEMBER 





w^nnr, 



^ 



MAGAZINE 






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SsS. 



Dig VourOwn Murder! 

^ W.T.BALLARD 



LEWIS*JAMES 



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THE MAGAZINE OF WEIRD MYSTERYI 




comma with 10 STORY MYSTERY 

NOVEMBER ISSUE OUT SEPT. 4th! 



Volume 33 September, 1946 Number 4 

A SPINE-TINGLING MYSTERY NOVEL 
DIG YOUR OWN MURDER! W. T. Ballard 10 

The Spanish treasure sweet Sue Pedarre and I dug up that night in the dark 
was a hot stack of black market G-notes, and hailstorm of white-hot death! 

TWO DRAMATICALLY-PACED NOVELETTES 
THE POOL OF FEAR Ken Lewis 36 

Later, I knew I had been a wild fool, but the decayed, vine-covered house, the 
bottomless pit of the pool, and most of all, beautiful mad Ellen, lured me ever 
closer into the baited trap. .. . _..„. „ , 

DEAD MEN DON'T BLEED William Rough 84 

The gilded pleasure-seekers of the Colony Plaza couldn't help McGlynn as he 
raced through the dead-end maze of that luxury palace, pursued by two kill- 
hungry crooks who planned him as the finish of their feast of death! 

EIGHT COMPELLING SHORT STORIES 
C. O. D.— CASH, OR DEATH! Henry Norton 25 

The plans on John Severn's drafting board were for his own murder ! 
DEATH'S OLD SWEET SONG George William Rae 32 

Tonight Bluebird gave her farewell performance, in the chair ! It was strictly 

solo — unless she could make a murder-maestro sing too ! 
THE WORM IN THE ROOT - Ken Kessler 48 

Young Sandy's worms were great bait— for fish, or killers ! 
THE WHITE SQUARE Everett M. Webber 54 

Dirk drove the devil's buckboard to the sulphorous gates of Hell ! 
EASY KILL -'- William Hellman 58 

Too-slick Rick pressed the doorbell that lighted the path of his own doom. 
RED DAWN.: Don James 62 

Right beside the clicking teletypes, newshawk Larry Halden found a story that 

for him was hotter than the hot squat ! 
ONE LAST SONG FOR FLORA Dorothy Dunn 70 

Her pale dead fingers, groping from the lacy tissue of the candy box were 

Flora's last appeal to Eddie. - • - 

BLIND DATE WITH THE DEVIL John Bender 77 

Marion Carter actually tried to keep her date with Death! 

— AND— 
MYSTERY'S DARK PORTALS A Department 6 

What's coming up on the murder-mystery menu. 
MACABRE MUSEUM Mayan 8C Jakobsson 35 

The live voice of the dead bride spoke up at her wedding ! 

Published bi-monthly by Popular Publications, Inc.. at 2256 Groye Street CMcagp, 18, ITCM& Editorial and ExeouUr. 
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FOR two days and nights, a pair of Scot- 
land Yard's aee detectives had been 
staked out in that room in a luxurious 
West End London apartment. Their eyes 
were glued to a peep-hole in the floor and 
they were watching and recording every mo- 
tion of the attractive girl in the apartment 
below. Headquarters had detailed them to the 
job after having received a mysterious, yet 
seemingly authentic, tip that the woman's 
life was in danger. 

The lonely, seemingly thankless vigil con- 
tinued, until they heard a door spring open. 
Followed the angry cry of a man's voice. To 
the detectives' consternation, the man never 
once stepped into the field of vision of the 
peep-hole, and then to their complete bewil- 
derment, the girl also stepped out of sight! 

Suddenly they heard a shrill scream, closely 
followed by a shot. Racing down the stairs, 
they broke into the apartment to find the 
woman murdered, and the man completely 
vanished, without an apparent trace. 

The eerie quality of this case came to mind 
today when we read Cyril Plunkett's new 
novelette, "Terror On Twelfth." Let's see if 
you agree. 

Jean Kirkwood, a serious blue-eyed ex- 
fashion model, found herself peering through 
a haze of uncertainty into the life of her hand- 
some young husband, Bert Kirkwood. Upon 
him fortune had smiled; he was gay, hand- 
some — and highly successful. 

But who was he? Who were his friends? 
What had he done before they had met during 
the war and were married after a whirlwind 
romance? The answers to these questions, 
like the identity of -the strange killer in the 



London apartment, were outside Jean's field 
of vision. 

Then suddenly— again, like the shot which 
the detectives heard— a shred of the answer 
came to her in a mysterious, sinister phone 
call when a froggy voice croaked over the 
wire, "You wouldn't want your husband sent 
to prison, lady, would you?" That was all. 
But the terrifying calls kept coming, day 
after day. . . . 

"Did you think it over?" 

"Who are you?" she whispered. 

He laughed. "Wait a minute, Mrs. Kirk- 
. wood. This is business. I'm in business, 
and business can be risky. Get it?" 

"I don't know what you're talking about !" 
"You didn't tell your husband?" 

"Not — not yet," she admitted. 

"Okay! You get in a cab, and tell the 
driver Honny's Bar, on Twelfth. He'll 
know where it is. You look in the last 
booth. I'll be waiting. 'Mike,' you say. 
And I'll say, 'Hello, Mrs. Kirkwood.' Then 
we'll know we're on the right track, and 
we'll sit down and talk business. You bring 
— oh, say couple hundred, as a retainer. "_ 

She had just two hours. Her whole life, 
and Bert's — yes, the little fellow's too — 
was to be decided in 120 minutes. Two 
hundred dollars? That in itself was noth- 
ing. It was what would come next. . . . 

"Honny's?" said the cab driver. His 
card read John J. Mudge; he was young 
and brown and brawny. Then he grinned. 
"You sure you've got that right, Miss?" 
It's a dump, Miss." 

(Continued on page 8) 




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MYSTERY'S DARK PORTALS 



(Continued from page 6) 
Her voice caught. "Yes, I'm afraid so.' 
Still he watched her in the mirror. 
■ "You'll want me to wait, Miss?" 

Suddenly she liked his face there in the 
mirror. "Yes, I'll be out in fifteen min- 
utes." 

So she went to keep her appointment 

with Mike It was a bizarre rendezvous, 

she found, for when she arrived, Mike was 
a corpse ! 

After that, her mind was a little hazy, 
Honny, Ed, Soo, Lux— all men from the bar— 
the taxi driver and the wild procession of ex- 




plosive events whirled and kaleidoscoped 
through her frightened mind. But even so, 
there remained the deep inner urgency to look 
behind the dark curtain which separated her 
from Bert. 

Then, crouched in the rear of the black- 
mailer's car, things were becoming only too 

She' cringed in the farther corner, on the 
floor. Soo's hand grabbed her, held her by 
the neck. Then the car door opened— and 
closed. Honny was inside now. Soo was still 
there, in his corner. And. . . . Mike lay on 
the floor. She'd met him at last, introduced by 
death. His body pressed against her, and she 
shuddered. . . . 

Honny said, "Where's the blanket?" 

Ed had the blanket. Ed stuck his face in 
the door. He said to Honny, "Here's to a 
nice trip, kid." 

"Get the joint open, Ed. Everything the 
way it should be. Get a couple of the boys 
down here, in case the cops show up to- 
morrow. You know — we were upstairs all 
evening, playing poker." 

Honny pulled the car door shut. Then he 
said, "All right, Mrs. K. You can have a 



rough out, or a smooth one. You know I 
play for keeps. You know I don't argue— 
you saw what happened to Mike. Okay. I 
want to know what the pitch was with 
Mike." 

Lux was crawling in behind the wheel. 
Lux turned, looked across the seat at them. 
Soo and Honny sat there. 

"Come on, Mrs. K.," Honny said, his 
voice sharper. "We haven't got all night. 
Mike called you this afternoon. That 
right?" 

She murmured a faint, "Yes." 

"But are you sure he didn't contact your 
husband?" 

Yes or no? By which would she now 
gain an advantage? Before she could de- 
cide, though, Hormy said, "I get it, He 
didn't. Mike said he didn't, and I guess it 
checks. I don't get his angle. How come 
he buzzed you? Where do you stand on 
Leslie?" 

Leslie? Her mind began whirling fas- 
ter, the merry-go-round to spin faster. 
Leslie? Was that name a brass ring, that 
somehow, she must reach out and grab 
quickly? A ring to save her — or bring her 
death ? 

Then Honny snarled savagely, "Come on, 
Mrs. K. Leslie — the guy who was mur- 
dered." 

For a moment her heart ceased to beat. All 
the long, long day she had tried to feel Bert's 
past. She had wondered if it had_ been a 
stolen car, some escapade way back in Bert's 
youth. She'd wondered if he'd held a job of 
some importance, somewhere" once, and stolen 
money. She knew she should have made Bert 
open the book before their marriage. Didn't a 
girl .marry more than a man? Didn't she 
marry his past, too? But she'd loved Bert, 
and to love him was to trust him. She'd never, 
even in her wildest fancies, conceived that in 
his past there might be a murder. 

That's what we mean by "eerie". That's 
the way "Terror On Twelfth" grips you as 
you race through its pages to find out what 
dark secret actually had happened to Bert, 
which would bring himself, his lovely wife 
and child into the grim shadow of lurking 
death. 

The story will appear in the next issue of 
Dime Mystery Magazine, and we feel that it 
will bring the readers, as it did to us, a spine- 
chilling sense of impending menace, tense 
drama and convincing human color. 

You'll find many other thrilling and com- 
pelling novelettes, and short stories in the 
forthcoming issue, written by masters of 
murder-mystery fiction, and to be published 
September 4th ! L„^-l~i 

v —THE EDITOR 



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X 



DIG YOUR OWN 




The gun hammered a second 

time, blasting sharply into the 

night. . . . 



Who wouldn't help out a lovely gal like Sue Pedarre, when she wanted 
a strong arm to dig up a fortune in buried gold? I never knew that each 
spadeful of earth I dug in the dark of the moon was coming from my 

own grave! 



10 



"^i 



MURDER! JL 



'. BALLARD 




Mystery Novel of the Year! 



CHAPTER ONE 
Home of the Dead 

DID you ever go on a treasure hunt? I 
dont mean the game which is some- 
thing like a paper chase. I mean the 
real thing. 

I did I thought I was too smart for any- 
thing like that, but everyone has a wjjak point. 
I guess mine was a blonde. I can't explain 
ever getting mixed up in the foolishness any 
other way. J 



It all started when Malcom Ramus sent for 
me. Ramus didn't look like a professor. He 
looked like a snow bird. He was a little guy 
with a pointed nose and brown eyes which 
stood out from his face like two half-buried 
marbles. 

His office was one flight up in an old ram- 
shackle building on Rampart a couple of blocks 
oft Canal. The black letters on the glass panel 
of the door read, Information on Anything, 
M. Ramus. A very modest guy, the professor. 
■ He always gave me a laugh. Maybe that's 
why I kept up a contact with him. He knew 

11 



12 



W. T. BALLARD 



the town like the back of his hand, and all 
about the people in it, both living and dead. 

What he didn't know he could find in his 
books. The books occupied the room at the 
rear and they nearly filled it, piled in huge 
stacks which reached almost to the dirty ceil- 
ing. There must have been six or seven thou- 
sand, but Ramus could find the one he wanted 
within a couple of minutes. He must have 
had a card index in his head. 

His income wasn't very good or very cer- 
tain. The library called him occasionally, 
the university asked him questions, and he 
lectured once in awhile. Sometimes he bor- 
rowed money from me. I suspected that he 
wished to borrow some on the afternoon he 
phoned but I was wrong. He wanted me to 
meet a girl. 

The girl gave me butterflies. She was so 
blonde that her hair looked almost white in 
the ray of afternoon' sun which crept in 
through Ramus' dusty windows. Her eyes 
were blue and very dark. Her lashes dark too 
and it made a startling effect. 

She wore a shark-skin suit and she was the 
kind of person who could wear tailored clothes 
and still look very, very like a woman. 

I caught my breath. I like pretty women. 
Who doesn't? 

Ramus said, "This is Van Kerby, the best 
detective in North America." 

"The world," I told her, playing it straight. 

"This is Sue Pedarre." The little professor 
looked at her as if she'd been made of rare 
porcelain, "and this is her attorney, Boyd 
Henderson." 

Henderson shook hands. He was big, fifty 
perhaps, a well conditioned fifty which spoke 
of plenty of golf or maybe hand ball. 

"I've heard of you," he said. 

I let that pass. A lot of people had heard 
of Kerby and Smith. We pride ourselves that 
we have the biggest agency in the south. 

"What gives?" I was watching the girl. I 
liked watching her. I thought I could sit 
there for a long, long time, just looking. 

Ramus said, "Miss Pedarre belongs to one 
of the old families. However she wasn't born 
here but in California." 

I looked at the girl. The name was certainly 
French, but that blondness, "They raise them 
nice in California," I said. 

Ramus ignored me. The girl tried to. The 
lawyer cleared his throat. 

"One of her ancestors," said Ramus, "was 
a smuggler, or a trader — a pirate perhaps. 
His name was Henri, Henri Pedarre. He is 
supposed to have financed some of the Lafitte 
operations, although I've never been able to 
connect him directly with the brothers." 

I waved this aside. I wasn't concerned with 
history. "Well?" 

"At any rate, he was killed in the battle of 



New Orleans. Before he died, he told his 
wife that he'd buried a fortune. She never 
found it although she spent her life looking. 
Her sons never found it. The story of the 
treasure became a legend in the family." 

" So now Miss Pedarre is hunting the treas- 
ure?" I started to reach for my hat which 
I'd placed on the floor beside my chair. "Well, 
I wish her luck." 

"Wait," said Ramus, and there was an 
urgency in his voice. "She found a chart. It 
was in an old trunk lid. It's evidently been 
there since Henri Pedarre hid it after burying 
his gold." He reached into his desk, drew out 
a piece of parchment and handed it to me. 

I took it unwillingly. Almost every old 
property in the state has its own story of 
buried treasure. Some of them may be true. 
The fact remains that not many have been 
found. 

I looked at the chart. It seemed to be the 
plan of a house, or of a number of plantation 
buildings. Below the plan were three columns 
of numbers and to the right was a silly jingle. 

Start at the center and turn to the right. 

From Y to A and V to D, 
The bishop's longest move you see^ 

Dropping squares at bottom and right, 
And using only those which are white, 

You have no place for the letter Z. 

T READ it over twice. Then shook my head, 
■*■ passing it back. "Sorry, I'm not good at 
puzzles." 

Ramus said, "You don't understand. I 
didn't send for you to solve this. I've already 
solved it." 

"You have?" I looked at him completely 
startled. 

"And a very simple matter." He wasn't 
bragging, merely stating a fact. "It only took 
me two hours. You see, anyone familiar with 
chess would spot it at once." 

"What's chess got to do with it?" 

"The bishop," he explained, "is one of the 
pieces used in a chess game. He moves di- 
agonally across the board. Therefore the 
bishop's longest move would be from the upper 
left hand corner of the board perhaps to the 
right lower." 

He opened his desk again and produced a 
chess board. "You see." He drew a line with 
his finger. 

"Go on." I didn't see, but I was listening. 

"All right. Now, half the board squares 
are white, half black. The rhyme says to use 
only the white squares, and also to ignore the 
bottom row and the row to the right. 

"Now, when a chess board is correctly 
placed, so," he turned the board, "A is in the 
upper white corner, Y at the other end of 
the diagonal if we ignore the row at the bot- 



-JLWJs.'i."..". .'I 



DIG YOUR OWN MURDER! 



13 



torn and right, thus," He arranged the letters 
hurriedly. 

"You see?" 

I stared at the board. "Okay, if you say 
so. What now?" 

"These columns of numbers." He explained. 
"Take the first number 23335. You notice that 
in no place does a one appear. Therefore I 
figured that they began counting with one. 
Now your rhyme. The first line is, Start 
from the center and turn to your right. I 
started in the center of the board first. It didn't 
work. I then started in the center of the first 



A 




6 1 


c 











E 


| F 




G 






[H 




1 | 


J 




K 






L 


1 M 




N 











pj 


Q 




R 






S 


1 T 




U 




r 




wl 


X 




Y 



















line. Try it, counting the square between B 
and C as one. It will come out D. I won't 
bore you with working out each number. The 
cipher reads: 

"Dig ten paces from the post 
Where the whip is used the most." 

I stared doubtfully at the columns of figures. 
"All right, if you say so. But if you've 
solved the cipher, what do you need with me?" 

The lawyer interrupted. "Frankly, Mr. 
Kerby, we're scared." 

I turned to look at him. He' didn't seem 
scared, nor was he the type of guy who I'd 
expect to scare easily. "Scared of what?" 

He shook his head. "We don't know. Miss 
Pedarre's luggage has been searched twice 
since her arrival, and she's been followed." 

I grinned at the girl. "I can think of sev- 
eral reasons why she should be followed that 
have nothing to do with buried treasure." 

She flushed, the color coming up into her 
face. The lawyer made a noise in his throat. 
It was obvious that he did not appreciate 
my little joke. ^. 

Ramus said, hurriedly, "It's simple, Van. 
Miss Pedarre wants to hire you. She's afraid, 
that if she goes out to dig up the treasure, 
someone will hi-jack it before she gets back." 



I shrugged. "I'll send an operative. It will 
cost you twenty-five dollars and expenses." 

The girl spoke up, almost for the first time. 
Her voice was low, yet warm and .throaty. 
"Wouldn't you go yourself? I'd feel much 
safer." 

I looked at her. "When does this digging 
take place?" 

"Tonight." 

"You and his nibs?" I nodded toward the 
lawyer. 

"I can't go," he said. "I've got an important 
meeting. If I could, I wouldn't need you." 

Our eyes measured each other. I thought, 
I'm pretty much in my own line, but to this 
bird, I'm just another hired man. He's not 
going to like me with his blonde girl, but he 
can't help himself. 

"Okay," I said. "You're hired yourself a 
digging man, but just where do we dig. That 
rhyme isn't very clear." 

"In the old slave quarters," said Ramus. 
"Where else do you think they used a whip 
around there?" 

We drove out the old river road. I know 
that country pretty well and I'm familiar with 
the old plantations. Once it was a place of 
beauty, of life, but that was some time back. 
Most of the old houses have boards at their 
windows now, and the land has gone back, 
neglected and uncared for. 

It wasn't really worried about the girl being 
followed. I've found that treasure seekers are 
usually given to screwy ideas. 

But I didn't say that as we drove along 
the sweeping road. "How long since you've 
seen the place?" I asked. 

CUE PEDARRE shook her head. "I've 
^ never seen it. I inherited it from an uncle 
a couple of years ago. Mr. Henderson came 
down once to look at it. We've been trying 
to sell, but we haven't found a buyer." 

A lot of the old places are for sale, and a 
lot of them have failed to find buyers. The 
country isn't what it once was. It's kind of 
empty now, a little desolute, its productivity 
mostly gone. 

"How'd you happen to find the cipher?" 

She smiled. "That was an accident. When 
Mr. Henderson was down here he sold the 
old furniture, but he shipped several old 
trunks up San Francisco. I didn't want them 
so we decided the best thing to do was to 
burn them. The cipher was hidden in one of 
the lids." 

"Henderson there when you found it?" 

She nodded. 

"He seems to be around most of the time?" 

"He's an old family friend," she said. 

I tried to make something of that. I had 
directions from Ramus how to find the place. 
He'd even told me how to park. "There's an 



14 



W. T. BALLARD 



old lane," he said. "You can pull into that 
and walk across the field to the slave quar- 
ters. That way, anyone following you won't 
see the car." 

I'd laughed. The idea of anyone actually 
following us had struck me as funny. But I 
did watch the rear view mirror all the way 
from town. I was certain we hadn't been fol- 
lowed. 

I parked the car in the lane and took up 
the pick and shovel I'd brought. The whole 
setup made me feel ridiculous, but the blonde 
being with me made it fun. We started across 
the field toward where the old house made a 
dark outline against the sky. 

Nothing bothers me usually, but as we 
walked across the rough ground I had the 
sensation of ants crawling up and down my 
back. Maybe it was the girl's excitement, for 
she was nervous. 

The hand resting on my arm pressed hard 
enough so that they should have been able 
to take her finger prints off my hide. 

"Relax," I said. "I'm going to have to use 
that arm to dig with." 

Instead of relaxing, her grip tightened and 
her voice had the breathless dry quality which 
can be put there only by fear. 

"Look." 

I turned to look. At first I saw nothing to 
cause her excitement, then I saw the dark 
outline of a car parked in the shadow of the 
trees. 

"Someone's here," she whispered. "Some- 
one is after the treasure." 

"Probably neckers." 

I placed the shovel and pick on the ground. 
"Just some kids making woo. Wait here until 
I see." 

I moved forward then, loosening the gun 
under my arm. I was nervous, and getting 
more so for as I crossed the drive, leading 
back to the old house, I realized that it had 
been used recently, used quite a lot for a 
supposedly deserted place. 

I had the gun free. I felt better with its 
solidness in my hand, a nice gun, a thirty- 
eight on a forty-five frame with the grip 
specially built to fit my hand. Then I edged 
onward, listening for voices. There were none. 
The car was empty. 

I looked it over with care, nothing re- 
markable, a cheap sedan, five years old. On 
second thought I jotted down the license num- 
ber, then I moved back to the girl. 

"No one there," I was whispering, "but 
the car hasn't been parked long. The ground's 
damp and the mud on the tires still fresh." 

"Some one's after the treasure." 

"Look, kitten," I said. "Let's pretend we're 
grown up, huh. This treasure business is 
okay for kids, and I didn't mind driving out 
here with you to look for it, but how could 



anyone else know about it, or your silly cipher ' 
or anything unless you talked?" 

"But the car's here." 

It was there all right. I couldn't deny that. 
"All right," I said. "Someone's trespassing. 
You stay here and I'll look around." I turned 
and moved toward the dark outline of the 
deserted house. I didn't know she was fol- 
lowing until I felt her breath against the side 
of my face. I almost shot her. I was that 
jumpy. 

"Hey," I said. "Don't you ever do what 
you're told." 

"I was scared," she whispered. "I didn't 
want to be left alone." 

I hesitated. The smart thing was to take 
her back to my car. But nothing moved in 
the dark overgrown yard ahead. I was prob- 
ably being silly. 

"Come on then, but keep quiet." 

I moved around to one side of the old 
house. It was in pretty sorry shape. Once 
it had been quite a place, but now the windows 
were covered with rough boards, the white 
lead of the paint was peeling away from the 
walls. 

I was busy looking at the house, but the 
girl hadn't forgotten the rhyme. 

"Dig ten paces from the post 
Where the whip is used the most." 

That could only mean the old slave quar- 
ters. Again she caught my arm with fingers 
which dug into the flesh. "Look." 

CHAPTER TWO 

Dollars for the Dame 

f LOOKED toward the row of old buildings 
■*■ at the rear and suddenly I stiffened. It was 
faint, but very distinct in the darkness. The 
finger of light which crept out through the 
chink in the old walls. 

I started to tell her to remain where she 
was. Then I knew it was no use so I merely 
whispered. "Quiet now," and moved ahead, 
my gun held ready. 

The buildings didn't seem to be in as bad 
shape as the main house. I guessed they had 
been used to quarter some of the field hands 
and therefore had been kept in repair. 

The light was coming through a crack in 
the old stone foundation and I got down on 
my knees to peer through. I had a restricted 
look at a stone paved room, lighted by a 
flickering candle. I guessed that the room 
had once served as the plantation prison for 
I could see two pair of rusty chains hanging 
from the far wall. 

This then would be the place where unruly 
slaves had felt the biting lash of the whip. I 



DIG YOUR OWN MURDER! 



15 



own that I was suddenly quite tense. The 
rhyme was working out. Ten paces from 
where those chains hung was the place to 
dig, only, someone was there before us. Some- 
one must have dug, or be planning to dig. 

There were two men in tne room. I couldn't 
see their faces, but I heard one say, "All 
right then, that's the deal. You handle that 
much and come back Tuesday." 

The second man was uneasy. You could 
feel it. "I . . . well . . ." 

"You'll come back," his companion laughed. 
"You're in this now, brother. How would 
you like a tip to the bank examiners?" 



I didn't catch the muttered answer. He 
turned and moved to the ladder-like stairs. 
The last I saw was his legs, climbing upward 
... I heard him step outside. I heard his 
feet move across the stone entrance. I thought 
he muttered to someone, but I couldn't be 
sure. He might have been talking to himself. 
I waited, listening for other sound. It came 
finally, the roar as he started the car. 

I told the girl to wait and moved around to 
the building entrance, keeping well in the 
shadow of the wall, just in case there was an 
outside guard. I saw no one, and the girl 
was right behind me. 









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16 



W. T. BALLARD 



I stepped into the building, guided by the 
light which came up the stairway, and moved 
down them cautiously, one hand on the rough 
cut stone of the wall, the other holding the 
gun. Moisture came through the wall making 
the stone wet and a little slippery. 

The man was busy in a far corner. He'd 
raised one of the floor stones and pulled out 
a metal box. In spite of myself my pulse 
leaped. 

As I watched, he raised the box lid, seemed 
to place something inside and started to close 
the lid. 

"Hold it," I said, and gained the floor level 
in three quick steps. 

He swung around. It was the first knowl- 
edge he had that he was not alone. His hair 
showing beneath the edge of the low drawn 
hat was very black. His eyes matched the 
hair, glittering a little in the candle light. 
His hand moved as if by reflex toward the 
gun clip beneath his arm. 

"Hold it," I jerked my gun a little and he 
stopped, standing half crouched. 

"What is this, a hi-jack? You'll get killed 
for this, Mac." 

"If anyone gets killed, it will be you. Get 
away from that box, over by the wall, on 
the double." 

He obeyed sullenly, and I ordered him to 
turn around, facing the wall. 

Again he obeyed and I was just reaching 
for the gun in his shoulder clip when he 
kicked backwards. 

I was ready for that too. My gun was 
high, I stepped sideways and slashed it against 
his head. He crumpled without a sound. I 
stooped, got his gun and slid it into my pocket. 
He was out, cold. 

The girl uttered a little half smothered 
gasp. She stood for a long moment staring 
down at the man. "Is he . . . dead?" 

I shook my head. "Take a look at your 
treasure, kitten," I indicated the metal box 
with a jerk of my gun. 

She stared for an instant longer, then 
moved over to the box and looked down at 
its contents. 

"It's . . . it's full of money . . . there was 
a treasure ... I didn't really believe it." She 
had dropped to her knees beside the small box 
and was hauling forth bank notes 

I moved over to her side. There was a 
treasure all right. But no pirate had buried 
it. The box had told me that. It was new, of 
light metal like a dispatch box. I reached 
down and looked at the bills. They were 
signed by Henry Morgenthau. 

It hurt me to tell her. She was like a kid 
with a new toy. She hadn't really looked at 
the money. It didn't dawn on her that they 
hadn't printed bills like that in eighteen- 
twelve. 



I said, "It's money all right, kitten, but I'm 
afraid that you won't get to keep it" 

SHE looked up and her eyes fastened on the 
gun which I still held loosely. Her blue 
eyes seemed to crystallize into chips of ice, and 
her shoulders stiffened. "You ... you mean 
you're going to take it, to rob me?" 

I shrugged. After all, you couldn't blame 
her. It was a natural reaction. She'd seen 
me club the punk and it must have seemed 
pretty ruthless. Who was I? A private de- 
tective, out for what I could get. 

I grinned. "Look, sweet. Those are nice, 
thousand dollar bills. It's hard to spend thou- 
sand dollar bills right now. The banks make 
you register when you bring one in. The 
FBI asks strange questions." 

"But why?" 

"Don't you read the papers? Didn't you 
ever hear of black market money?" 

I could see she had. She looked down at 
the bundles of money she'd gathered up, and 
gradually she let them slide back into the 
box. "Then . . . then, there isn't any treas- 
ure?" 

I shrugged. "If there is, this isn't the time 
to hunt for it. Sonny boy over there," I in- 
dicated the unconscious man, "may have some 
friends around. I can't imagine them being 
this careless. We've got to move easy, we've 
got to be certain we take no more chances 
than we need to. Here, you pick up the box. 
It isn't heavy. You can have the fun of carry- 
ing it back to the car." 

She closed the box slowly. "What about 
him?" 

I hesitated, then I' went over and went 
through his pockets. There was nothing at 
all in the way of identity. I thought of tying 
him up until the authorities could get there. 
A sound from outside decided me against it. 
The sound had been a step. 

I covered the distance to the candle in two 
jumps and blew it out, then I whispered to 
the girl. "Over this way." 

Her soles scraped on the stone floor in the 
darkness. I didn't like it. That cellar was a 
trap. Whoever was outside would notice the 
light off in a minute. If he were a guard, 
he'd be suspicious. 

I guessed now that he'd walked to the car 
with the other man and was just coming back. 
"Up the stairs," I whispered, grasping her 
arm. 

She almost dropped the box. Yes, she had 
it. You could trust that gal to freeze onto 
money. 

We moved quickly up the stairs. I hoped 
we could slip through the door unseen, but 
our luck was running thin. We had no more 
reached the open until a voice called, 

"Charley." 



DIG YOUR OWN MURDER! 



V7 



Maybe we should have stayed inside, but 
I don't like sweating things out. I'd rather 
have action than that. "Yeah," I grunted and 
stepped into the open. 

"Hey," said the voice, sounding surprised. 
"You're not Charley. A gun lanced flame in 
the darkness and the bullet struck the wall 
close to my head. 

I swung the girl around the corner. The 
gun hammered a second time, blasting sharply 
into the night. I knew the guard couldn't see 
us because of the angle from which his shots 
came. If the girl hadn't been with me, I might 
have circled back and tried to get him. As it 
was, we ran. There was a ditch a hundred 
feet behind the buildings. We dived for it. 
I thought of snakes, but at the moment I 
was worried more about hot lead than about 
venom. We made the ditch and worked our 
way along it. The man back by the house was 
still jumpy. Every couple of minutes he'd 
blast at something. I'm not certain what he 
thought he was shooting at. Maybe he was 
just exercising his" trigger finger. 

But he wasn't following and I slowed the 
pace. The girl was panting and I took the 
box from her. "Relax, kitten, we're out of 
trouble now." 

She gave a little gasping laugh. "I'm afraid 
I'm not up to treasure hunting, Kerby. I al- 
most died when those bullets started flying." 
"We both almost died," I said soberly. "For 
shooting in the dark, that bozo was coming 
close." 

She squeezed my arm. "You're nice," she 
said. "Somehow, I feel pretty safe when I'm 
with you." 

She was very close, and very nice. I had 
the sudden impulse to kiss her. Instead I 
squeezed her arm. "Let's get back to the car. 
The sooner I get this mud off, the better I'll 
feel." 

We cume out of the ditch, cutting across the 
field. It was rough going and she almost fell 
twice. I was trying to help her. I was care- 
less I guess. I never saw them until they 
jumped us. 

We were close to the car then. They came 
out of the hedge to the right. The girl was 
jerked away from me and someone swung, at 
my head. 

I ducked, rolling with the blow and went 
down to one knee. There was a culvert to 
the right and I tossed the box into the ditch. 
The man standing over me swung again at 
my head. I grabbed his knees and jerked his 
feet out from under him. He went down and 
a second man swung at my head. I rolled 
away, coming up to my feet, jerking^jny gun 
free. 

• I couldn't see the girl. She seemed to have 
vanished. I heard a car's motor somewhere 
on the road. Everyone was running and shout- 



ing. I ran to the right and suddenly stepped 
off into a hole. 

The water was up to my neck. The brush 
along the edge was so heavily matted that 
I couldn't drag myself out. I heard them 
calling to each other. I saw the wink of a 
flash light and knew they were searching for 
me. 

I crowded close into the brush, my nose just 
above water. They must have hunted for ten 
minutes, but they were worried about some- 
thing. Finally the car lights cut on. They 
pulled up beside my coupe, raised the hood and 
did something to the motor. Then they drove 
away. 

T WAS just about to haul myself out when 
someone came running up the road. I saw 
a man move to my coupe, examine it and 
call something unintelligible. A voice an- 
swered. They stayed there for perhaps five 
minutes, then they too disappeared. 

I dragged myself out of the water. I was 
almost drowned. I didn't know where the 
girl was. I didn't seem to know much of any- 
thing. Somewhere in the mess I'd lost my gun. 
I went over to the culvert and found the box. 
It was awkward to carry. I took out the 
money and stuffed it into my pockets. It would 
get wet, but that didn't bother me. Then I 
went over to the car and tried to start it. 
It wouldn't run. 



I must have walked five miles. There were 
blisters on my heels from the wet shoes. I 
finally found a farmer who would take me to 
town. All he had was an old truck. It was 
four o'clock when I got back to the apart- 
ment. The phone was ringing when I came in 
through the door. I had the feeling that it had 
been ringing steadily for a long time. I an- 
swered it and a man's voice said, 

"We've got the girl. We'll trade her for 
the money." 

Just like that, no hello, no introduction. I 
took a long breath and told him. "You've got 
the wrong number, baby. I don't know what 
you're talking about." 

The laugh was nasty and had no mirth. 
"You'll know when the cops fish the blonde 
out of the river." 

I hung up. In a minute the phone rang 
and I answered it. "Look, Kerby," said the 
voice. "We traced the license plate of your 
car. Even if the blonde hadn't talked, we'd 
still know that you'd been out at the Pedarre 
plantation tonight. Don't go to the FBI with 
that dough, not if you think anything of the 
little girl's life." 

. "Okay," I said, "but you've got it wrong, 
Mac._ I lost that dough in the fight. T couldn't 
find it, so, do what you like." I hung up then. 



18 



W. t. BALLARD 



I was bluffing, but I figured that the girl had 
a better chance to live if they figured I had 
nothing to trade for her. 

I was so tired that I hardly knew what my 
name was. I had to do something, but what 
to do was the question. Then I thought of 
the man whose car had been parked in the 
plantation yard. I didn't know what he looked 
like, or what his name was, but I did know 
his license number. I reached for the phone 
and called a friend in the motor vehicle 
department. 

The man's name was Morse. I got his 
address, on one of the side streets off Canal, 
a couple of blocks short of Louisiana. He was 
listed as a teller at one of the smaller banks. 

I grinned at the information. Things seemed 
to be making a little sense. I cleaned up a 
bit, went down and took a cab over to the 
address. Light was just beginning to show 
in the eastern sky. It would soon be morn- 
ing. 

The house was old like its neighbors, set 
back in a little square yard. I had the cab 
park at the corner and walked forward. There 
was no sign of life as I climbed to the porch 
and rang the bell. I rang it hard, holding 
the button down a long time. Finally an upper 
window came open and a man's voice said 
irritably, 

"What's the matter?" 

"Telegram," I said, knowing he couldn't 
see me for the porch roof. 

There was a mumble of conversation from 
above, then the window slammed and the 
hall light came on. I heard his feet on the 
stairs, heard him fumbling with the lock, then 
the door came open and he was staring at me. 

"You're not a messenger. . ." he sensed 
something wrong and tried to shut the door but 
my foot was in the way and a second later my 
gun was in my hand. 

He was a small man, with thin, sandy hair 
and tired, squinty blue eyes. The eyes got 
wide at sight of the gun, then filled with fear. 
"What do you want?" 

I used the gun to back him into the hall. "I 
want to talk to you, Morse." 

He didn't like my use of his name. He 
didn't like anything about the setup. He was 
a little rat, caught in a trap and looking des- 
perately for a way out. 

I fished out a card case with my free hand. 
I found a card which said that I represented 
the Bankers' Protective Association, which 
was true enough since our office did some 
work for them. 

He stared at the card with dilated eyes. 
His lips were suddenly dry and he circled 
them with his tongue. "What do you want?" 

"You made a trip tonight," I said. "You 
saw a man about some thousand dollar bills." 

"That's a lie !" 



"Don't get excited Mac." My voice was 
hard. "f*-was there, I saw you." 

"You can't prove anything." 

I grinned sourly. "That's what you think. 
That plantation yard was muddy. Your tires 
left tracks. Maybe you don't know it, but 
the police can check those tracks against your 
tires almost as easily as they can check a set 
of finger prints." 

The long skinny hands hanging out of his 
pajama sleeves worked. I could see him think- 
ing, wondering if he somehow could grab my 
throat. 

"Don't try it," I said. "I'd have five bullets 
in you before you touched me." 

CHAPTER THREE 

j 

Too Hot to Handle 

TIE COLLAPSED then. He quit. You can 
* * tell when a man quits, when he's no longer 
dangerous, and it isn't pretty to watch. But I 
had no feeling of mercy for him. I was 
thinking of the blonde girl. 

He let his head hang and his voice was 
no longer turbulent. "What are you going to 
do with me?" 

"That depends," I said. "I'm not after you. 
Oh, sure, I know the story, you were short 
in your accounts, you saw a chance to buy up 
enough black market thousand dollar bills for 
maybe seven-fifty a bill, to cover your short- 
age. I'm still not interested. I want the men 
you dealt with, and if you help, I'll try and 
put in a good word for you." 

He groaned. "I was short in my accounts. 
I didn't know what to do. I got a letter 
through the mail. It seemed like a form letter. 
It said that a company would make personal 
loans up to twenty thousand dollars on char- 
acter only and that my name had been sug- 
gested as eligible for such a loan. I knew 
there was some catch. There had to be, but 
I was desperate. I didn't know which way to 
turn, so, I called them up. 

"Finally I met a man in a restaurant. He 
said frankly that it was black market money. 
He said he knew I was short in my accounts 
or I wouldn't have answered the letter. He 
threatened to report me to the bank examiners 
if I refused to deal." 

"What did this man look like?" 

Morse hesitated, but he was thoroughly 
whipped. "The man was big," he said in a 
cracked voice. "He had black hair, and a scar 
on one side of his face. The scar wasn't so 
noticable except it lifted one side of his face 
as if he were always smiling." 

"How big?" 

Morse hesitated. "Well over six feet, six- 
four or five perhaps. " 

I nodded. It certainly wasn't the man I'd 



DIG YOUR OWN MURDER! 



19 



struck down at the old plantation. "Do you 
know how to get in touch with any of them?" 

He didn't. He denied any further knowl- 
edge and I believed him. It seemed I'd ac- 
complished absolutely nothing by my visit and 
[ said so as I walked to the door. 

He stood there, nervously. "You won't turn 
me in?" 

I shrugged. "This will have to be straight- 
ened out, but ..." I never finished the sen- 
tence. A gun made a sharp, sudden sound 
an the still morning air. 

It still wasn't light enough to see anything. 
[ couldn't even be certain from which direc- 
tion the shot had come. I heard Morse give 
1 kind of grunt, then his body fell sideways, 
almost knocking me from my feet. 

It probably saved my life for I went stag- 
gering across the porch as the gun sounded 
igain, the bullet striking the house wall, close 
to the door jam. 

I vaulted the porch rail and found shelter 
behind a tree. I heard the slap slap of feet 
Mi the turf. I heard the. sound of my cab's 
motor flare suddenly, heard the gears clash. 
Evidently the driver was gun shy. I turned 
ind looked back at the house. A woman was 
in the house doorway kneeling beside the 
fallen Morse. I heard her dry sobs. Then 
she started to scream. That was all. I should 
have stopped to call the cops, I didn't. I turned 
and ran. 

I had the feeling I was followed. I couldn t 
be sure. I didn't actually see anyone. I made 
my way to the carline and rode back to my 
apartment. 

From there I called Sue Pedarre's lawyer. 
He sounded sleepy but the sleep went out of 
his voice at the news. He started to swear. 
He kept swearing. "Have you called the 
cops?" 

I told him that I hadn't, that I had no in- 
tention of calling them until I knew more than 
I did. "They've got the girl," I added. "As 
long as they think there's any hope of trading 
her for their black market money there's some 



hope that she won't be harmed. The best way 
to sign her death warrant is to call copper." 

He agreed. "I'm sorry I ever let her into 
this," he said. "I never was too sold on the 
treasure idea, but it's certainly unlucky that 
this gang chose the old house to hide their hot 
money in." 

I agreed. 

"I'll help in any way I can. I feel terrible. 
Why, Sue is almost like my own daughter. 
I love that girl." 

"Anybody could love her," I said and rang 
off. I didn't go directly to my office. I went 
to see Ramus first. 

I found the little professor behind his big 
desk pouring over an old manuscript. He 
looked up eagerly as I came in. "You found 
it? I was right?" He jumped up from behind 
the desk. 

"We found something," I said, and told 
him what had happened. 

His dark eyes got very wide. His voice 
dropped to an excited whisper. "This is ter- 
rible. A girl kidnapped, a man dead. Where 
will it end?" 

I shrugged. "Look, Ramus, there's some- 
thing screwy about this deal. It might be an 
accident that these black market boys chose 
the old house as a distribution headquarters 
where they could sell their hot dough at re- 
duced rates, but the fact that it should be 
in the same old prison room where the Pe- 
darre treasure is supposed to be buried is 
really something." 

"The treasure is still there," he was ex- 
cited. "I'll bet you the treasure is still there. 
You didn't follow the cipher, did you, you 
didn't do any digging?" 

"There was too much happening to do any 
digging," I said shortly. "I was too busy 
worrying about getting out of there." 

"Then it's still there." 

"And as far as I'm concerned, it can stay 
there -mtil I get the rest of this straightened 
up. Tell me, what do you know about this 
lawyer Henderson and the girl?" 




20 



W. T. BALLARD 



TJE LOOKED surprised. "What do you 

■"■■"■ mean?" 

"Exactly what I say. What do you know 
about him, and the blonde?" 

"Well," Ramus settled back into his chair. 
"Not too much, really. He's an important 
attorney in San Francisco. He has some local 
connections and from time to time I've done 
some research jobs for him. Why?" 

I shrugged. "I like to know who I'm doing 
business with." 

"He's all right," said Ramus. "Certainly 
you don't think he's mixed up with the black 
marketeers, do you ? Why, if he was, the last 
thing in the world he could want would be to 
direct you to the old Pedarre place." 
"That makes sense." 

"And the girl, did you ever see such a 
sweet chick?" 

I looked at Ramus hard. I had no idea 

that he had ever heard such a word. The 

little guy might have unknown possibilities. 

"Well, what about her?" 

"You're going to get her back? Certainly 

she's worth more than all that hot money?" 

"In my book yes." 

He relaxed. "I'm sorry I got you into this, 
Van. I never dreamed. ..." 

"Forget it," I told him. "Everything always 
happens to me. This is no exception." I 
turned and left, going back to my office. 

The switchboard girl gave me some calls. 
Most of them were from regular clients, but 
one was from a man named Shawn. 

I went into the office and looked up the 
Shawns in the phone book. There were a lot 
of them listed, none with a number like the 
one my man had left. 

I tried the cris-cross with no better luck. 
I always like to know who a man is before 
I talk to him, but in this case, no luck. Finally 
I called Mr. Shawn. 

A man's voice answered and there was a 
few minutes wait, then another voice said, 
"Good afternoon Mr. Kerby." 
It was hardly noon, but I let that pass. 
Thank you very much for calling." 
He had a nice polite sort of voice, the kind 
I associate with grey haired men, tweedy 
coats, and briar pipes. 

"What's on your mind?" I wasn't im- 
pressed by the voice. I've been fooled too 
often. 

"I understand you're a discreet man," he 
said and his tone turned buttery. "I'd like 
t° talk to you tonight about some money 
which you have in your possession which 
does not belong to you." 

"I'm a busy man," I said. "My partner is 
out of town, and I haven't much time to talk " 
This won't take time," he assured me. "I 
think we can work out a deal." 
"About the blonde?" 



He ignored this. "Just a deal," he said 
You meet me tonight at eight, and it woul 
be wiser if you did not mention the meetin 
to the police. I have ways of learning things. 
I wet my lips. "I haven't talked to the cop 
yet." 

"Fine," he said. "Fine. I think you an 
I can do business, big business." He gave m 
an address on Royal. "You come alone," h 
added, "and I'll be there. Otherwise, you wil 
find nothing, nothing at all." 

I'd hardly hung up the phone when th< 
secretary buzzed the squawk box. "Lieutenan 
LeMay wants to see you." 

I told her to send him in. I thought fas 
during the couple of minutes it took him tc 
walk from the reception room. LeMay was 
assigned to homicide. 

He came in, small and dapper as always in 
his double breasted blue suit with the ever 
fresh flower in his button hole. 

"How are you, Van?" He had black eyes 
and black hair. He looked a lot more like 
a gambler than a police officer. 

I said I was fine and motioned him to a 
chair. He sat down on the edge and laced 
his fingers over the head of the cane he al- 
ways carried. The fingers were encased in 
pearl grey gloves. Quite a dresser, LeMay 
and from all accounts, quite a lady's man. 
"What gives?" 

"Have you read the noon papers?" 
I hadn't, and said so. 

"But you might know that a man named 

Morse was shot to death about dawn this 

morning, a nice little harmless bank clerk." 

"What make you think I'd know anything 

about it?" 

He sighed. He carefully removed one glove, 
produced a beaten silver case and extracted a 
long Russian cigarette with a false tip. "Your 
card was clutched in his hand," LeMay said. 
"Very careless, Van, very careless indeed." 
"There might have been a dozen reasons 
why the guy could have my card." 

He admitted this by inclining his head. 

But also, we found a cab driver, a man who 

hauled you from your apartment to Morse's 

street. When the shots came, he took off." 

"Go on." 

"Isn't that enough?" 

"I know you," I said. "You always hold 
something back to club a man with. I'd 
rather have it now." 



TJE SIGHED again, then he blew smoke at 
me in a perfect ring. "We found some 
money m Morse's pockets, thousand dollar 
bills. The wife broke down and talked. Her 
husband was short in his accounts at the bank. 
He d been dealing with some gentlemen who 
had thousand dollar bills for sale at reduced 
rates, black market money." 



DIG YOUR OWN MURDER! 



21 



"So now I'm tied in with the black mar- 
ket?" 

He shrugged. "I'm merely asking you what 
you are tied up in. We found a farmer who 
drove a man to town this morning. We also 
located your car, broken down on the old 
river road." 

"Thanks for telling me. I've wondered 
where it was. I thought some of reporting it 
stolen." 

His black eyes gleamed. "What kind of 
fire are you playing with now, Kerby?" 

I shrugged. "Look, LeMay. There's no 
need telling you that I won't talk. At the mo- 
ment I can't. You've known me for some time. 
You know that this office has always played 
it straight across the board with the cops." 

"Sure," he said. "Sure, I know, but the 
boys down at the hall don't all feel that way. 
I think you'd better come down and talk to 
them." 

I went down and I talked. They even 
brought in the FBI because of the thousand 
dollar bills. I've sweated it out before, when 
a case of mine ran afoul of the cops, but I'd 
never gone through anything like that. It was 
after six before they finally turned me loose. 
I was surprised that they did. They could 
have held me as a material witness and I'd 
have been forced to give bail. I guess they 
figured I'' had too much at stake. Our office 
was the biggest of its kind in the south. 

CHAPTER FOUR 

The Man Who Knew Everything 

fFHE address on Royal which Mr. Shawn 
■■• had given me was an old house. It dif- 
fered not at all from the houses which flanked 
it on either side. I'd spent the better part 
of an hour making certain that the cops 
weren't following me. They'd tried, but I still 
knew a couple of tricks for getting rid of 
unwanted trailers. 

I judged that the house was at least a hun- 
dred years old, probably more, and guessed 
there was a court yard beyond the wall. Most 
of the older houses had been built around 
court yards. 

I searched for the bell and found none. An 
old fashioned iron knocker made a heavy, hol- 
low sound as I dropped it. 

Somewhere in the neighborhood a dog 
howled, a cat was singing at the distant moon 
and the rumble of traffic was a faint but steady 
sound from the direction of Canal. 

Nothing passed along the street, no sound 
came from within. I had about decided that 
Mr. Shawn was playing games with rap when 
the door came open suddenly and the beam of 
a hand torch was squirted directly into my 
eyes. 



"What do you want?" The woman was very 
old. Her voice was cracked and high and 
accusing. 

"To see Mr. Shawn. I have an appoint- 
ment. The name is Kerby." 

"Whydidn'tyuhsayso." She ran the words 
together until it was a single mumbled syl- 
lable. She backed up, taking the light out 
of my eyes and I followed her, stepping side- 
ways so that she could close and chain the 
heavy door. 

She turned, throwing the light's beam on 
the stone-paved covered passageway which 
led along one side of the courtyard. 

I had a confused glimpse of a» little pool, 
of heavy uncared for jungle like growth, then 
we reached the iron stairs which led upward 
to the balcony. 

The balcony served as an upper hall and 
it was not in good repair. It sagged and 
groaned under our weight as we moved along 
it to the door at the end. 

The old woman was an uncertain shawl- 
covered shape, sinister in her silence, like 
some hooded spectre out of the middle ages. 
I had a feeling of unreality and the weight 
of the gun beneath my arm gave little comfort. 
She paused and knocked on the closed door, 
then turned and creaked her way back along 
the way we had come, taking the light with 
her. 

For a full minute the door remained closed. 
I almost called after my departing guide, then 
the strap hinges creaked and the door swung 
back, letting out light and the musty, dusty 
smell of age and damp and carelessness. 

The man standing there was nothing like 
the voice on the phone. He was big. He wore 
chocolate slacks and a tan sport coat. 

I raised my eyes and looked at his face. I'm 
tall, but I had to look up to Mr. Shawn. He 
was a good six feet four. 

His face was as big as his body, his hair 
black, rather thin and curly, and he would 
have been good looking save for the scar 
which perpetually lifted the corner of his 
mouth. 

"Thank you for coming," he said, and I 
jumped for it was the voice on the phone. 
Also, from Morse's description it was the man 
of the black market money. 

But the voice was no longer soft and friend- 
ly. It had a mocking hardness which rode 
the words like a haunting overtone. 

"That's all right," I said, again conscious 
of the bulk of the .38 beneath my arm. It felt 
good and reassuring. 

M/^OME in," he backed away and I had a 
^ look at the bare room. There were two 
chairs, nothing more. Evidently this room 
was being used for this meeting only. Mr. 
Shawn was apparently a cautious man. 



22 



W. T. BALLARD 



fc shut the door and moved toward one of 
the chairs. Mr. Shawn took the other. He 
reversed it, straddled the seat with his thick 
legs and rested his big chin on knotted fore- 
arms. 

"You don't look tough," was what he said. 

I chuckled, but not from amusement. "Have 
you been hearing rumors?" 

"I made inquiries," he admitted. "I like to 
know what I'm up against when I sit in a 
game. It gives me some advantage. " 

"I can see your point. I know nothing about 
you." 

"You knew enough to hi-jack my money. 
How many men have you buried, Kerby?" 

"I never bury them. I toss the bodies in 
the river. What else did you learn?" 

"That you're wise, and smart, that you and 
your partner have a nice business here, solid 
accounts and connections which you wouldn't 
care to lose." 

"That's right, we get along." 

"Then why monkey into my game?" His 
tone had turned hard. "We want that money 
back. We're willing to pay a reasonable 
amount, but no more than reason. If you 
don't deal, we'll see that you are taken care 
of. Frankly, we don't like hi-jackers." 

"What about the girl?" 

"What girl, you mean the one who was 
with you? We aren't going to pay her off 
separately if that's what you're getting at. 
You take care of her yourself." 

I started to say something, then changed 
my mind. Instead I asked, "If I decide to 
deal, what's my cut?" 

"Ten thousand, or if you want to throw 
in with us, use your connections to move 
some of the hot money, we'll pay you ten and 
a percentage on everything you handle." 

"That might be a possibility." I appeared 
to think it over. 

Shawn said, "We'd rather do business with 
you than fight you." 

I nodded. "It's always easier that way but 
I don't want the same thing to happen to me 
that happened to Morse." 

His eyes tightened a little at the corners. 
"That would be unfortunate. Too bad that 
Morse got killed. I didn't order that done. 
The boys were acting on their own. They 
figured Morse had led you out to the old house 
and that you went there to take over his cut. 
Did he?" 

I passed over that one. "When do we make 
the deal?" 

He was eager. "Tonight." 

I nodded. "Okay, tonight then." I gave him 
an address. "Be there in two hours." 

"No crossing?" 

I shrugged. "How could I cross you with- 
out losing out myself?" I rose. "And if you 
try to cross me. . ." 



He said, "We won't. We can use a man 
like^you, Kerby. We need a local connec- 
tion." 

* * * 

When I got back to my apartment it was 
a wreck. Someone had searched it thoroughly, 
and they hadn't been careful to put things 
back where they belonged. I stood in the 
doorway for a long time, looking at it, then 
I went over to the phone and called Hender- 
son's hotel. 

His voice had an eager, nervous note. 
"What's happened?" 

I told him about the cops, and then I told 
him about Mr. Shawn. I said, "I've made a 
deal. I turn over the money and Shawn turns 
over the girl." 

He was silent for a long moment. "You're 
certain he has her?" 

"Who else? Someone surely does unless 
she's hiding herself." 

He agreed with that. "Where are you 
meeting Shawn?" 

"At Ramus' office," I said. "I couldn't think 
of any other place. I didn't want to bring them 
here or to my office." 

"Are you going to tell the police?" 

"And have them maybe kill the girl, that's 
foolish." 

"Okay," he said. "What do you want me 
to do?" 

"Nothing, if anything slips you can tell the 
cops _ I was on the level, trying." I rang off, 
hurried down stairs and caught a cab to the 
station. I'd checked a package at the check- 
room that morning, the package held the hot 
money. Then I caught another cab to Ramus' 
office. 

The little professor met me on the side- 
walk. He was almost hopping up and down 
"Henderson called me," he said. "He told 
me what you were going to do. You have no 
right to use my office, to get me mixed up in 
this thing." 

"You got me mixed up in it," I reminded 
him. 

He stared at me with round, reproachful 
eyes. "But that's your business. I'm just a 
quiet man." 

"Gimme the keys," I told him, "and go on 
home. If there's trouble, blame me. Tell the 
police you knew nothing about it." 

He hesitated not knowing quite what to do. 
Late evening traffic rolled by us in never end- 
ing waves. No one paid any attention. 

"Makeup your mind," I said. "You can call 
the police if you like, but then, if anything 
happens to the blonde, why then it's all your 
fault." 

He made a little helpless gesture with his 
hands. "Here are the keys. But don't let them 
go into the library. Don't let them disturb 
my books." 



DIG YOUR OWN MURDER! 



23 

He laughed again, the rumbling sound which 
seemed to come from deep down in his big 
chest. "What was it you said earlier about 
throwing bodies into the river. It's a thought, 
Kerby. Do you realize that you and this little 
jerk," he indicated Ramus with a movement 
of his big thumb, "are the only ones who can 
tie me to this business?" 

"Sure," I said, "that's what you think, but 
wait a moment. How do you think I happened 
to be at the plantation last night? It wasn't 
an accident, I assure you." 

The other corner of his mouth lifted to 
match the one puckered by the scar. "You tell 
me, Mac." 

I said, "Ever hear of an attorney named 
Henderson?" 

His eyes came alive at the name. "What 
about him?" . - 

"You have heard of him, I see. Was he, by 
any chance the reason you decided to use that 
plantation for your payoff point?" 

Shawn was definitely interested now. "Go 
on?" 

I said, "Henderson sent me out there. He 
sent me out on a trumped-up story of a treas- 
ure hunt. I wasn't sold on it, but there was a 
blonde involved and I was sold on the blonde. 
A lot of smart men have done dumb things 
because of a girl." 

"Why do you think I know Henderson?" 
I shrugged. "I'm guessing, but look at it 
this way. I go out on a treasure hunt and find 
a box of hot money. I don't believe in coin- 
cidences. They happen sometimes, but not 
often." 
"But why would Henderson ... ?" 
I said, "I don't know what your deal with 
him was but I do know that he was in control 
of the plantation as Miss Pedarre's agent. He 
probably suggested it as a nice, lonely place 
from which to operate." 

"You're warm," said Shawn. "Go on." 
"And then he wanted the money for himself. 
He was afraid to tackle your men, so he picked 
a nice pigeon to do it. He picked me because I 



r PROMISED. I went up the dirty stairs 
*■ and unlocked the door. Then I put the 
package of money on the desk. I was just 
headed for the library when a noise behind 
me made me turn. Mr. Shawn slipped into 
the room. 

Slipped is a strange word to use in connec- 
tion with such a big man, but it's the only one 
ivhich explains his movements. I never saw 
myone else so light-footed. There was a gun 
n his big hand. It looked small by compan- 
ion, the hand almost smothered it. 

I stared at the man, at the gun. "What's the 
dea, a double-cross?" 

"I haven't made up my mind. His eyes 
ook in the package of money on the desk and 
flowed for an instant. "You brought that, 
,ny way. " 

"What do you mean, anyway," I sounded 
ngry. 

He said, "You were talking to some little 
erk down on the street. He hurried away." 

"It's his office," I said. "He didn't like me 
ising it." 

"Maybe," said Mr. Shawn, "he didn't like 
t so much that he was going for the police." 

I didn't answer. I wasn't surprised when 

man appeared, shoving Ramus' small figure 
efore him. 

"We just don't take chances," said Shawn. 
i I shrugged. "Okay, you don't take chances, 
'here's your money. Let's deal." 

"You know," he said, giving me a slow 
rin. "There really isn't any reason why we 
hould deal with you. As you say, there's the 
wney. All we have to do is to take it and 
:ave." 

I nodded. "That's right, unless you want 
le to use my connections to help you change 
hose thousand dollar bills into smaller money, 
loney which won't be questioned." 

He threw back his head and laughed. "I 
x>led you on that one, now, didn't I ? You 
:11 for it. I sized you up. I thought you would, 
'he question is now, what is wisest to do." 

"Meaning?" I was watching him closely. 




NEXT TIME SAY 

BRIGHT STAR 



FAMOUS SINCE 1909 



for a better 

FLASHLI6HT 

and better 

BATTERIES 



24 



W. T. BALLARD 



was supposed to be a tough guy. He framed up 
a cipher which sent me to the old slave prison. 
He even told me where to park my car. Like 
a fool, I played right into his hands. I got 
the dough, just as he hoped, I made a run for 
the car, taking the girl with me and he was 
waiting there to jump me, to grab the dough." 

"Well ..." 

"But he didn't get the dough. I managed 
to slip out of his fingers. So he held the girl. 
He called and offered to trade her for the 
money. When I talked with you on the phone, 
I thought you had kidnapped her, but when 
I talked to you tonight, I realized that you 
hadn't, that you knew nothing about her be- 
ing gone. 

"That meant there was someone else in the 
game, someone I hadn't been counting on. It 
must be Henderson. He was the only one who 
knew I was connected with this thing, except 
for your men who apparently spotted me at 
Morse's and followed when I left there." 

His face was tight, the scar standing out 
very white against his skin. "Yes," he said. 
"I know Henderson. He was my lawyer in 
San Francisco. He did. suggest that we use 
that plantation. If I could get my fingers ..." 

"VOU can," said Henderson. He had 
■*■ pushed open the door of Ramus' library 
and was standing to Shawn's right, his gun 
covering the room. 

"Drop it." 

Shawn dropped it. Surprise came up in his 
big face, and then hate to wash it away. 
"When I get my hands ..." 

"You won't," said Henderson. He was very 
pleasant about it, and very business-like, and 
very deadly. "I'm going to kill you," he added, 
almost as an after thought. "I've intended to 
for some time." 

The words rocked Shawn, but if Henderson 
noticed he gave no sign. "Pick up the gun, 
Ramus, and get the one from the jerk who's 
guarding you." 

Ramus obeyed. 

Henderson smiled thinly. "You were very 
handy to have around, Kerby. And you're a 
fool. We did fake that cipher to start the 
treasure hunt. Ramus worked it out and I 
planted it in Sue Pedarre's trunk lid. I thought 
it was clever. Old plantations, treasure, the 
two naturally go together." 

My lips were a little dry, but I managed to 
smile. "Wouldn't it have been simpler merely 
to hi-jack the money yourself?" 

He shook his head. "It wouldn't. I wasn't 
certain how well it was guarded, or what 
might happen. If there was a slip, and the cops 
came in, I would be involved. If you found it, 
and got as far as your car, I thought we could 
take it away from you." 

THE 



■ "And I suppose I die too?" 

He nodded. "Unfortunately, yes. I hai 
nothing against you, but you have no moi 
usefulness. " 

"And the girl ... is she in the library?" 

He chuckled. "You are smart. What bett< 
concealment than stacks of Ramus' books?" 

Shawn made a noise in 'his throat. He too 
a step toward Henderson. The lawyer's go 
steadied. "Stay where you are." 

Shawn took another step. "Go ahead an 
shoot." His tone was mocking. "You made 
mistake, Henderson. You've let me get to 
close. You'll shoot me, yes, but all six bullet 
won't stop me, and once I have your throat 
... he jumped. The gun roared. The last shol 
were muffled by Shawn's vest. Every bulli 
took effect, but he was right. The power of hi 
big body carried him to Henderson, his pow 
erful hands seized the lawyer. Between th 
shots there was a little snapping noise an 
they went down together. Henderson's nee 
was broken. 

* * * 

Sue Pedarre shuddered. "I never want t 
hear the word treasure again as long as I livi 
It was terrible, in that room, just listening. 

"It wasn't pretty to watch," I told her. 

"And when the cops came in. It ws 
lucky ..." 

"Not so much luck," I told her. "Ever 
cop in town knows me by sight. They tried t 
follow me earlier. I stood out on the sidewal 
for awhile talking to Ramus. The station \ 
only a few blocks away. I knew someone woul 
spot me, and that the law would show up. 
thought they would come earlier." 

"But if you suspected Mr. Henderson . . . 

"I had no proof. I set a trap by calling hii 
and telling him I was going to deal wit 
Shawn at Ramus' office. By that time I fig 
ured they had you. I thought you might be I 
the office. Shawn lived at a hotel, Ramus in 
furnished room. The library with its stacks c 
books would be a good place ..." 

She sighed. "You're kind of smart. I'm sui 
prised that you ever got mixed up in th: 
thing." 

"Blue eyes have effect," I grinned down i 
• her. "You'd be surprised what a pair of blu 
eyes would make me do." 

She looked away, but she didn't seem to b 
angry. She didn't seem to be mad at all. " Whs 
will they do with Ramus?" she was trying t 
change the subject. 

"Send him up, probably. Best thing ths 
could happen. He'd like the prison library. 

"You're hard." 

"You think so?" 

She didn't really, Her eyes showed ths 
when she turned back to face me. They wer 
smiling, and very, very blue. 
END 



CO.D.-CASH, OR DEATH! 



HENRY NORTON 




My work was okay — but I was 
plenty worried. 



I WAS scared, I don't mind telling you. 
I was walking down a main street in my 
home town, with maybe a hundred peo- 
ple on the sidewalk within call, and still I 
was scared, worse than I'd ever been. Every 
time an old scrap of newspaper blew out of 
an alley mouth, I almost cut and ran. 

I'm not very big — something close to 
average size, I guess. And I've never con- 
sidered myself a brave man. I have to work 
up my nerve for a couple of weeks to make 
the regular call to my dentist, because the 
thought of pain, of being deliberately hurt, 
really gets me. 

I was thinking about that, and the whole 
mess was the craziest thing I'd ever heard 
of. I stopped in front of the Crosset Jewelry 
Store and lit a cigarette. The dark window 
pane made a mirror for the street behind 
me, and I looked at that until the match 
burned my fingers. All I learned was^that 
I needed a shave and looked like hell in gen- 
eral. 

I don't know what I expected to see. Rusty, 



In these days, living expenses are ad- 
mittedly high. But thirty thousand 
dollars was a lot more dough than I 
cared to put out for rent— on my 
grave! 

25 



26 



HENRY NORTON 



the chauffeur, or red-haired Diana, or Joseph 
Grieve himself. Or the shape of fear, I 
didn't know what to expect. I knew only 
that I was scheduled to be killed. . . . 



JfOUR days ago, I'd been a quiet, undis- 
turbed draftsman in an architect's office 
down town; single, with no more money in 
the bank than you'd expect, and no entang- 
ling alliances with babes or booze or betting 
that would make anybody want to knock me 
off. I had as much fun as the average guy, 
but the company didn't like playboys or 
trouble-makers, so I kept my nose clean. 

Then, four nights ago, this big car met 
me at the building entrance at five o'clock. 
A tall, slim guy in a chauffeur's cap and 
uniform with shiny black boots came over, 
polite as you please. 

"You're John B. Severn," he said. 
It didn't sound like a question, the way he 
said it, but I told him I was, anyway. And 
he asked me if I'd be good enough to come 
with him for a half hour. Said he'd take me 
home immediately afterward. Said it • was 
important, and to my advantage. 

Well, it didn't make sense, but I've given 
up expecting everything to make sense any- 
way, so I climbed into five thousand dollars 
worth of automobile and this guy started off. 
He couldn't — or wouldn't — tell me what it 
was all about. When I fired questions at 
him he'd just grin and shake his head. 

We stopped in front of a big old stone 
house in a quiet neighborhood, and the 
chauffeur followed me up the steps and rang 
the bell. The door was opened by a quiet 
little man about fifty or sixty. He had bright 
blue eyes behind steel-rimmed glasses, gray 
hair brushed back in a smooth wave, and 
clothes that must've cost as much as I make' 
in a month. There was a girl in the hallway 
behind him, and she was — 

She was terrific. She had red-gold hair 
in the length I like, down to her shoulders on 
the side, and a kind of page-boy deal in the 
back. There wasn't too much curl— the hair 
looked like a burnished helmet on her head, 
like Diana Artemis. You learn stuff like 
that in architect school. But she was terrific. 
She smiled at me, and I came back with a 
moon-faced grin. I hadn't seen so pretty a 
girl in all my life, I was sure of that. 

She had on a light green wool sport suit 
that made her figure something to dream 
about. She stood by the door to the living 
room, doing nothing but smile at me, and 
the old guy took me by the arm and led me 
past her. The driver of the car followed us, 
and slouched down with one shining boot 
cocked carelessly over a chair arm. : ,' 
The old guy wasted no -time. m ' '' 



My name is Joseph Grieve," he said, 
*nd these are my associates, whom you will 
not see again if you are wise. Briefly, sir, 
we want thirty thousand dollars." 

It took the wind out of my sails, completely. 
I suppose I looked ridiculous, staring at the 
guy. I looked at the girl, and at the odd- 
acting chauffeur, but neither of them seemed 
to think it was a joke. I looked back to the 
little gray-haired man who called himself 
Joseph Grieve. 

"Perhaps I should explain more fully" 
the man said. "When I read that John B 
Severn had inherited a hundred thousand 
dollars I had you brought here, so that you 
might not mistake the seriousness of our 
intentions. We are criminals, Mr. Severn, 
and we feel no compunction about it. You 
will either turn over to us thirty thousand 
dollars of your new fortune, or you will be 
killed." 

I could think of only one thing to say. 
"Is this a gag?" 

"Do you think so?" Grieve said crisply. 
1 assure you it isn't. We know that the 
money, in cash, will be in your possession 
tomorrow. The newspaper accounts of the 
inheritance have been quite complete for- 
tunately. Now here is a special delivery 
envelope with my address on it. It was ad- 
dressed, never mind how, on a typewriter in 
your office, on your office stationery. You 
will enclose a cashier's check for thirty thou- 
sand dollars, explaining to the administrator 
that it is a business transaction. If that 
check is m my hands Friday, you will never 
see any of us again. If it is not, you will 
be dead within four days, no matter what 
steps you may take to prevent it." 

I turned the envelope over in my hands 
It was an envelope from Storm, Solvig and 
Company, the outfit that hired me. It was 
rubber-stamped above the firm name with the 
regular rubber stamp I use for my own mail 
It was addressed to Mr. Joseph Grieve, at 
the address of the stone house we were in 

Something about the calm and complete 
efficiency of the whole thing sent a little 
thrill of fear into me, even then, tightening 
my stomach muscles, making a tiny rill of 
perspiration go down my spine. 

"I'll go straight to the police," I said 
I knew as soon as I'd said it that I'd 
weakened my position. By giving them even 
that much of an argument I'd admitted a kind 
of half belief in their deal. I knew it by the 
scornful tilt of the redhead's lips, the sudden 
fierce brightness of Grieve's eyes. I knew 
it even better from the fact that my words 
were hollow and gave me no comfort. 
( ''Logical, but quite useless," Grieve said. 
Believe me. One of our assets in this busi- 
ness is a flawless reputation. We shall sim- 



C.O.D.— CASH, OR DEATH! 



27 



ply deny your charge, and present convincing 
evidence that it is merely a scheme on your 
part to avenge yourself because Diana here 
has spurned your advances. It will put you 
in a very bad light. In addition to which, 
you will still be killed." 

"Do you people mean to sit here and tell 

me you're serious about this?" I said. My 

voice wasn't any too steady, but I drove it. 

,"Do you honestly think this crazy scheme 

has a chance of working?" 

"It's worked before," Grieve said. 
I I stared at him. 

, "Remember Clinton Carruthers?" he asked. 
His smile was gentle, but it held a queer 
;sense of menace, like the smile of a tiger or 
iCrocodile. "Clinton Carruthers was an attor- 
ney in the same building you work in, Mr. 
[Severn. He died, they said, from an over- 
dose of sleeping pills. He did not. We killed 
|im, because he refused what we asked." 

•THAT one hit home. I'd known Carruthers. 
'■'■He took in a fancy fee just before his 
death; something like fifty thousand dollars. 
There was no reason why he'd commit 
suicide, and nobody knew of him taking sleep- 
ing pills. But he'd died from an overdose of 
[hem, just five days after he got his big 
check. It was peculiar, to say the least. 

But 'this would explain it, quite nicely. And 
it did more than anything else to convince 
ne that these people meant business. 

There was a way out. I thought about it, 
but it wasn't a way I cared to use. Better 
:o take the rap myself than — no, that way 
iras rib good. So I decided to bluff it out, 
really play hard to get, and see what hap- 
pened. 

I stood up. "I'll have to think about it," 
; said. 

I could tell by the old guy's grin that he 
igured he had me hooked. He nodded and 
aid, "Today's Wednesday. If you mail the 
aoney tomorrow it'll reach me in time. If 



you don't; if it doesn't get here by Friday, 
you won't live through the weekend." 

I didn't answer that. I walked over to the 
red-head. She stood up as I came near, and 
her eyes were wary. She was just as pretty 
close up as she'd been from across the room. 

"So, Diana, you spurn my advances!" 

I put a hand under her chin, none too 
gently, and kissed her hard on the mouth. 
For a second I thought she was going to 
return the kiss, and then she backed away 
and swung a hand at my face. It missed, 
and I walked out of the house. Behind me 
the old man was grinning, but the chauffeur 
didn't seem too happy about things. 

The more I thought about it, the screwier 
it got. When I thought about Carruthers, 
the idea seemed practical, and dangerous. 
But when I thought. about myself, it was just 
funny. Because I could no more send Grieve 
a check for thirty grand than I could swim 
the Atlantic. If I raked all my cash together 
it might total seven hundred bucks, but not 
any more. 

So I gave it a miss. What else could I 
do? I went back to the office and turned out 
the plans for the Forbes store, and they went 
off pretty well. Charlie Myers, the head of 
the drafting department, came around about 
four. 
"You been boozin'?" he asked me. 
"What's the matter?" I said. "Plans 
wrong?" 

"They're okay," he said. He was a small 
guy, with fierce eyebrows, and a kind of 
nervous way of sniffling. "What I mean is," 
he said, "you've been so jumpy all day. Every 
time anybody walks behind you, you act like 
they're gonna stick a knife in your back." 

Maybe I had. It was certainly closer to 
the truth than I liked. I wasn't sure. 

"So maybe I had a bad night," I said. 

"Better lay off," Charlie said. "You know- 
how the bosses go for that. Or maybe you 
don't care now that you got all the dough." 



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I 



28 



HENRY NORTON 



"Same sweet character," I said. 

"Well, straighten up an' fly right!" he 
told me. 

Some fun ! 

A pack of predatory parasites preparing 
to pop papa in the pants, and I'm supposed 
to act like it was April in Paris. I gave 
Charlie the grin I usually save for maiden 
aunts at Christmas and birthdays. 

"I'll watch it," I said. 

My work was okay, that was something. 
I left the joint at five and went home. I 
opened the door of the four room apartment 
I call my castle, and something made a big 
noise in the fireplace, throwing ashes up 
and around more than somewhat. 

When I got through jittering I went over 
and looked, and there was a typewritten 
note on the mantle. "That was a firecracker," 
the note said. "It could have been a bomb. 
Better send the money." It wasn't signed 
and it didn't need to be. 

I'm enough of a construction man to fol- 
low back the wires and see how nicely the 
joint is wired for an explosion. I got the 
apartment manager on the phone and raised 
hell. 

"Said he was from the phone company," 
the manager told me. "Why wouldn't I let 
him in?" 

"You ask for his credentials?" I wanted 
to know. 

"Would you?" asked the manager. 

I shut up then. Chances were six, two and 
even the guy would have had good enough 
credentials to get by an apartment house 
manager anyway. 

So I kept on letting it slide. Hell, I didn't 
have the dough they wanted, but I couldn't 
tell them that. I had to sweat it out. I had 
to let it slide. 

I went to the office next morning, and about 
ten-thirty I wanted a little coffee, so I went 
out. There was a little car with its engine 
idling by the corner as I went over. It 
started with a lunge, and I missed being run 
over by inches. The car went slewing around 
a corner and out of sight before there were 
any cops available, or before anybody got a 
look at the mud-spattered license. 
. That was plenty. I went to the police. 
And did I ever get a surprise! 

The cops thought I was crazy. The harder 
I talked to make them see how serious it 
was, the more I could see that look on their 
faces that said, "Here's a nut with delusions 
of persecution. Harmless, maybe, but 
screwy ! " 

There was a sergeant named Riley. "If 
we started an investigation every time a fire 
popped or somebody almost got hit by a 
car," he told me, "we'd have, time to do 
very little else." > • • 



_ "But these people threatened me!" I sai 
"Here's the note that was on my mantl 
Hell, you can see I'm not making this up 

He looked at the note, turned it over, ai 
said, "Storm, Solvig and Company. Thai 
where you work ! " 

I don't know how I'd missed it. The no 
was on the reverse side of one of our ow 
letterheads. It looked plenty phony to Rilf 
and I could see how it would. But I had i 
keep trying. 

"Won't you even talk to them?" I aske 
pleadingly. 

He gave me a long, unfriendly stare. "Ye 
I think I will," he said finally. "I think 
will." 

I SAT there while he wangled the telephor 
■*■ number out of information, called, and g< 
Grieve on the line. It wasn't a very Ion 
conversation and Riley's face got darker an 
darker as it went on. He hung up at la! 
and swung around like he was going to slu 
me. 

"I've a notion to run you in!" he said. 

"Now hold on!" I said. "I know whs 
Grieve told you. He said I'd been chasin 
after his daughter; that I was just tryin 
to get even for being turned down." 

"It makes a good deal more sense tha 
your story, young man!" Riley said. "I'r 
going to do a little checking up on you, an 
heaven help you if I find you're trying t 
pull a fast one. Now get along with you!" 

When you came to think of it. Grieve di 
have the better story of the two. No co 
was likely to belieye a wild thing like thei 
threat, and if any cop saw that red-heac 
he'd easily imagine a guy making passes a 
her. 

So I followed the sergeant's advice am 
got along. I went down onto the street, am 
Riley came out while ' I was still standinj 
there. He started to say something, am 
just then a truck going past backfired, 
was back in that doorway like a cat gettini 
off a marble-topped table. Riley looked a 
me and frowned. 

"You got it bad, haven't you?" 

"Don't mind me," I said. "I need exer 
cise." 

"You sure you don't want to come bad 
upstairs and talk to a couple of guys?" hi 
said. "Maybe we could find some place foi 
you to lie down and rest a while." 

"In the psychiatric ward," I snorted. "N< 
thanks." 

"Now I'm warning you," he said sternly 
"No funny business from now on, or it'll g( 
hard with you. Just don't try to start any. 
thing!" 

"All I want to do is stay alive," I said 
"And I'm getting damned little co-operation/ 



THE fat was in the fire now, but good. 
■■■Grieve knew I'd gone to the cops. He'd 
have to get me fast now, before I could con- 
vince anybody I was telling the truth. Maybe 
if I were killed now the police might think 
a little more of my story, but that wouldn't 
do me any good. That wasn't the way I 
wanted to convince them. 

Well, I figured, if the cops wouldn't be- 
lieve me, I'd have to get help from someplace 
else. I couldn't see myself licking the gang 
single-handed; not with the way it was or- 
ganized. And there was only one guy I could 
think of who might go to bat for me. I went 
to the office. 

Charlie Myers was sitting in front of a 
drafting board with a sour look on his face. 
"Where the hell have you been?" he said. 
"Three hours for lunch!" 

I let him have it straight. "Charlie, there 
are some people in town trying to kill me. 
I need help ! " 
"I'd rather help them," he said. 
"No kidding," I told him. "They think 
they can scare me into giving them some 
dough. That, or they'll bump me off." 
For a minute he stared at me and forgot 
. ,to sniffle. He leaned back in his chair and 
said, "Are you serious, Johnny? You mean 
somebody really has threatened you?" 

"Hell, yes!" I said. I let him have the 
whole story then, and he kept shaking his 
head as if he didn't know whether to believe 
me or not. 
"Why don't you tell the police?" 
"I did," I said, "and they didn't believe 
■ word of it. The sergeant offered to throw 
me in the jug." 

; "Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea," 
Charlie said thoughtfully. "If this is the 
: straight goods, you'd be safer in jail than 
any place else.". 
It was an idea, but not one I liked. 
"I couldn't stay there forever," I said. 
"And they'd be waiting for me when I came 
[out. No, Charlie, I got to get the goods on 
them. That's the only way." 
; "You could pay 'em off," Charlie said. 
"There's that way. After all, you did inherit 
the dough. Maybe it'd be smart to pay 'em 
off and get rid of 'em." 

For a minute I was tempted to tell the 
straight of it to him, but I couldn't see 
where I'd gain anything, so I kept on playing 
it the other way. 

"Hell, it'd only whet their appetites," I 
said. "If they found out they could scare 
me into paying them once, they'd keep at it 
as long as I had a nickel." 
"Even that might be better than — " """ 
"Whose side are you on?" I asked him. 
"No, I'm going to give 'em a run for it, 
anyway." 



C.O.D.— CASH, OR DEATHF 



29 

"Okay," he said. "What do you want me to 
do?" 

"Damned if I know," I confessed. 

Charlie sniffled thoughtfully. "What seems 
to be indicated," he said, "is some kind of a 
trap where you'd be able to make a record 
of their voices. Even your pal Riley wouldn't 
be able to laugh that one off." 

"Dictaphone?" I was thinking out loud. 
Say, how about that?" Charlie said. 
Lret em to come to your apartment. Pre- 
tend you ve decided to pay off, or something, 
til rig up a wire recorder, and catch the 
conversation from a closet or something like 
that. When we get enough evidence, I step 
out and throw a gun on 'em while you call the 
police." 

^''Probably both get killed," I said. 

I can take care of myself," Charlie Myers 
said. And there was a grimness about his 
mouth that made him look like he meant it. 

J BEGAN to cheer up a little. It looked like 
I'd picked a pretty good guy to help me. 
And desperate as the chance was, it was 
better than sitting around waiting for a sud- 
den and violent death from some unexpected 
quarter. 
"How soon can we do it?" I said 
"Gimme your key," he said. "It's quarter 
to three now. You stay here till six, and then 
come home. Call this joker and have him 
meet you at your apartment, with his crew. 
Ill have the trap all set." 
"That's action," I said. 
I shucked the apartment key off my chain 
and handed it to him. He wrinkled his nose 
and said, "You better let me have some dough 
■to get the gear, Johnny. I haven't got it 
to spare right now." 

I gave him a check for a hundred, and he 
went on out. I sat down and tried to get 
Joseph Grieve's phone number from informa- 
tion. It was an unlisted number, and the 
operator wouldn't give it to me, so I called 
Riley. 

I told him what I wanted and he bellowed 
at me. "You're up to some more of your 
shenanigans," he roared. "Didn't I tell you 
I'd put you in the tank?" 

"I'm going to get evidence enough so that 
it 11 even penetrate that thick Irish skull of 
yours," I told him. "Give me that number, 
and stand by for a call about seven o'clock. 
And I mean stand by!" 

He argued a while, but I finally got the 
number. I called Grieve, and he answered like 
he'd been sitting by the phone waiting for 
me to call. 

"Expecting to hear from me?" I asked. 
Genially, he said, "No, I was expecting to 
hear from Rusty, the chauffeur. I was ex- 
pecting to hear that you'd been taken care of." 



30 



HENRY NORTON 



"Damn you," I said. 

I hadn't meant to let him get me down, 
but hearing him condemn me to death in such 
a breezy fashion was too much. I wished for 
a crack at him then. 

He chuckled. "You've come round, haven't 



you 



?>> 



®m 



So I went into my act. "Yeah, you win," 
I told him. "I can't go on dodging cars all 
my life. Want to come up to my apartment 
this evening and collect?" 

He said, "Mail it, as I told you." 

"No," I said. "Look, Grieve, I think I'd 
ought to get something for my dough. How's 
about a date with the red-head?" 

He hesitated. "That's something you'll have 
to arrange for yourself, I'm afraid. Diana 
is her own mistress in affairs of that nature." 

I was doubtful about that, but I said, "Any- 
way you can bring her along, can't you? 
You'd better bring your boy Rusty too. Be- 
cause I might try to knock you off, if I get 
the chance." 

"I'd thought of that," he said seriously. 
"I'd prefer that you mailed the money as we 
agreed." 

"It's too late to get a check certified to- 
night," I said. "You can pick it up at my 
apartment, or you can go to hell. I can't be 
any worse scared than I am." 

There was quite an interval. I finally 
said, "You still there, Grieve?" 

"Yes," he said. "All right, Severn, we'll 
be over. No funny business, now ! " 

"That goes double," I said. 

"Which reminds me," he said. "Be very 
careful on your way home. Rusty's orders 
are still to kill you, and I won't be able to 
warn him not to unless he calls in." 

VyELL, that's where you came in, with me 
" sanding in front of the Crosset Jewelry 
Store,, unshaven, dirty, tense and scared as 
all hell. 

I skulked home, trying to see everywhere 
at once. I didn't know what to look for, but 
believe me, I didn't take a single chance I 
could avoid, and I got home alive, which 
was something. But it wasn't enough, for 
the deal began to queer as soon as I put my 
foot in the door. 

They were all there alright. Grieve was 
thumbing through a magazine, Diana, the gor- 
geous redhead, was curled up on my daven- 
port with her legs displayed to good advan- 
tage, and "the fake chauffeur was leaning 
against the wall by the door. He cut over 
quickly as I came in, and dosed the door 
behind me. 

But this was it ; Charlie Myers was sitting 
there too, chewing the fat with them like 
they were old school chums. 

For a second I figured they'd caught him 



and made him sit down with them, but on 
look at his face made that idea no good. 

Brother, I was trapped for fair — all I coul 
do was try stalling them in the frantic hop 
that I could figure an angle. Whatever hap 
pened, I decided then to make it cost thee 
plenty to get me. 

"So that's the way it is?" I said. 
"You weren't very bright," Grieve said 
"How did you think we obtained the sta 
tionery from your office, if we didn't havi 
someone there working with us?" 
And then the other idea got to me. 
"Then it's got to be a rub-out," I said 
"Even if I paid off you couldn't leave m< 
alive, now that I know Charlie's with you.' 
Grieve nodded quietly, as if murder wai 
a very small item to him, as if a few corpse; 
more or less made no difference. The red- 
head gave me a nice smile. 

"Hell with all of you," I said. "You don'i 
get any dough out of it. Why should I paj 
off if I know I'm going to get killed anyway ?' 
"We'll do all right," said Charlie Myers, 
"When I took that check to the bank, 1 
managed to find out you hadn't deposited the 
money yet. I know it isn't at the office, sc 
it's got to be here someplace. And we'll find 
it, brother. We know how to make you talk.' 1 
I don't usually cuss in front of women, bu1 
what I told Charlie then made him blink and 
made Grieve's head come around. The red- 
head smiled a little wider. She could take it 
— that was plain. 

I went over and sat down beside her on 
the davenport. I put an arm around her and 
pulled her against me. This time she co- 
operated on the kiss, plenty. We held it way 
past the movie limit. Then I put my mouth 
down close to her ear. 

"Sell these tramps out," I whispered. 
^'Why not take thirty grand all for yourself, 
instead of a split. Maybe we could have some 
fun, that way." 

Behind me I heard Grieve say something 
about, "Let him have his fun." The girl 
pushed me away and looked to see if I 
meant it. I tried to look like I did. 

"I'm going to make a fight out of it," I 
whispered. "Throw in with me and you'll 
get what's coming to you. Come on, baby, 
make up your mind!" 

This time she kissed me, and I had my 
answer. I turned around and looked at the 
three men. Charlie and Rusty were scowling, 
but Joseph Grieve wore the same serious! 
calm look as always. 

I said, "Can't we make a deal, fellows? 
You don't have to rub me out. I know when : 
I'm beat. I'll turn the dough over and keep' 
my mouth shut if you let me live. I warn 
you it isn't going to be easy to find." 
i "Maybe we can," Grieve said. "Maybe: 



C.O.D.— CASH, OR DEATH! 



31 



we can work out some way. First though, 
the money. " 

"Oh, no!" I said, as defiantly as I could, 
"First the deal!" 

I was standing up now, walking around the 
room and waving my arms a little, like I 
was really upset. It took a little maneuver- 
ing', but I finally got between Grieve and 
Rusty so I could reach both of them. They 
weren't expecting me to try anything, being 
four to my one, so when I got hold of both 
of them and whanged their heads together, 
it really made a swell thump. Rusty went out 
like a candle, and all Grieve needed to put 
him out was a smash in the chops with my 
left hand. 

Charlie Myers jumped up and pulled a gun 
out of his pocket. The gal raised a little auto- 
matic from the handbag in her lap and shot 
him right in the stomach. He sniffled once, 
sort of surprised, gasped horribly, and 
dropped over. 

"Nice going, baby," I said. 

I phoned Riley, and then kept my arms 
around the babe pretty constantly till he got 
there, which was long before Grieve or 
Rusty came to. Riley didn't like the looks of 
the thing, but he simmered down when the 
girl backed up my stery. She told him they 
forced her to accompany them, and I gave her 
a very good self-defense angle for shooting 
Myers. 

"Maybe you'll get a light sentence, dar- 
ling," I told her, "for turning State's evi- 
dence." 

Her face got white and she said, "But you 
promised — " 

"I promised you'd get what was coming 
to you, sister, and I meant just that," I said. 
"I think Riley better check on whether Clin- 
ton Carruthers had a red-haired maid when 
ft was poisoned." 

I felt like hell about it, but she didn't fool 
Be any. I'd seen her shoot a guy in the guts 
to make a few thousand dollars. I wasn't 
laving any. 

Riiey said, somewhat sheepishly, "You've 
jot to admit it sounded crazy, though. Maybe 
that's why it came so very, very close to 
working. " 

' "It was never close to working," I said, 
"because I didn't have the dough. My old 
nan's name is John B. Severn, too. He's 
he one who got the inheritance, but the 
japers never bothered to check up, it wasn't 
hat important." 

"Why the hell didn't you say so!" Riley 
ixploded. "That would' ve taken them off 
'our back ! " 

"And put 'em on my Dad's," I said. "Ill 
idmit I was scared, brother — but not that 
cared!" 



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DEATH'S OLD 
SWEET SONG 



THEY rode to the prison together, Sam 
Lester, the big Homicide Lieutenant, 
and Craig Manton, the girl's lawyer, in 
Manton's long, sleek car. 

"It would pick this night to rain!" Sam 
Lester said. 

Craig Manton had been drinking, and he 
was in a surly mood. "It doesn't matter," he 
said. He watched the rain dance on the wind- 
shield. "Why do they have to pick me?" He 
spat out suddenly. "I don't want to see the 
damn thing!" 

Sam Lester rubbed his blue-tinged jaw. 
"They're not too bad," he said through his 
cigarette smoke. "Just a couple jerks against 
the straps, a little bit of a smell — and it's all 
over. They're not too bad." 

Craig Manton swung his head around. 
Sweat stood out on his forehead. 

"You're used to this," he said. "That's why 
I wanted you with me. That's why I called 
you." He turned back to the road. "But a 
girl. . , ." 

32 



"So what?" Sam Lester asked. "She kil 
a man, didn't she?" 

Craig Manton, the girl's lawyer, watcl 
the wet asphalt stream into the headlig] 
beneath the pelting rain. 

He licked dry lips, recalling the afternc 
that Sam Lester had spent in the lawye 
office when they heard that the governor I 
refused to grant a stay. . . . 

Craig Manton had done the best a lawj 
could, but Sam Lester's men had pulled 1 
net too tight. 

The girl had been found with the body. T 
gun was on the floor, where she'd dropped 
her prints on it. Just those two, in her drej 
ing room. They hadn't heard a shot. It vs 
lost in the blaring music. The band leac 
had gone back to see why she didn't come o 
for her number. He found her standing o\ 
Spook Slade, the man she was supposed 
love. Slade had been murdered. 

Bluebird was the name she sang under. 1 
had lived up to it, singing the blues as th; 



She was just a two-bit blues singer, and tonight she would 

die in the chair — unless detective Sam Lester could spot 

the one flimsy note that would trip up an unknown 

Murder Maestro. 



should be sung, from the heart . . . not the lips. 

CAM LESTER was a straight dick. He could 
3 do nothing but let the cards fall as they 
yould. The girl was found guilty by a jury 
vhich couldn't buck those cards. The death 
)enalty was mandatory. 

Craig Manton swung the car up before the 
>rison gates. 

"Execution witnesses," Sam Lester told the 
fuard who peered through the rain-streaked 
window. In a moment they were inside, en- 
ering the warden's office. 

Warden Kelly, a tall man with white hair, 
link cheeks, gravely inspected their creden- 
ials. His face showed strain. Bluebird was 
he second woman he'd had in his death house, 
ie knew what it would be like. 

Lester and Manton sat on hard chairs, 
tared at blue-gray walls, stark and clean. 

"This is murder," Sam Lester said. 

Craig Manton looked at him. "What d'you 
aean?" 

"I mean the girl here is innocent." 

"But it was your evidence. ..." Manton 
«gan. 

Sam Lester raised a big hand. "I'm a cop- 
ier, Manton," he said. "I had to go through 
ifith it. The evidence forced me to. Still, I 
hink the girl is innocent." 

"But you can't prove it," Manton said. 

"As I've been telling you all day, Manton, 
f I could prove it I'd be up with the governor 
tiyself." 

Manton lighted a cigar, puffed blue smoke 
[p into the hot, sick air of the room. 

"I'm not through with this case," Sam 
^ester said. "Whether the D.A. likes it or 
lot." 

Cigarette smoke swirled above the heads of 
he men in the little room and Sam Lester sat 
luietly waiting, smoking, talking softly to 
>aig Manton. 

"I had to take her," he said. "All the cards 
pere against her. You knew her defense. 'I 
lidn't kill him. I found him there. Yes, I 
licked up the gun from the floor where it was, 
Iropped it when I realized. ... I didn't kill 
rim, he was no good, but I loved him. . .' Then 
6out her past. About Bluebird being strictly 



a press agent stunt. Her name was Marion 
Maxon and she came from Groveton, Penn- 
sylvania. Just a kid with a husky voice and a 
heart that belonged to a no-good hoodlum." 

"That was it," Manton said. "What could 
I do for her? What could any attorney do 
for her?" 

Lester kept talking as if he didn't hear 
Manton. "About the gun," he said, "there 
was something about the gun. One piece of 
evidence that didn't tie in. The D.A. never 
used it. Had enough; he said. So I kept it. I 
wondered about it. A funny little thing, just a 
piece that didn't fit. I kept it and it tantalized 
me, told me that someone had framed that 
girl. Someone very smart." 
i Sam Lester stopped, lighted a cigarette. 
Watched the smoke fan out from his lips. 

Manton was looking at Lester, tight lipped. 
"You mean you had evidence .-that you with- 
held?" 

"It wasn't withheld. It was turned over to 
the D.A. It just didn't fit in." 

"What was it?" Manton asked. 

Lester didn't have time to answer. He was 
called to the telephone. 

He went into the other room to answer It 
and Manton sat back, smoking and wait- 
ing. . . . 

Sam Lester came back with the warden. 

"It is time, gentlemen," Warden Kelly said 
quietly. His humanity was in his eyes; his 
face was lined. He had a job to do. He was 
acting in accordance with the dictates of the 
law. He had no choice. 

They went outside then, into the lashing 
rain, across the prison yard to the Death 
House, down a long corridor and into the 
execution chamber. The cub reporter followed, 
nervously inhaling a bent cigarette. 

There were benches for them to sit on be- 
neath a sign marked SILENCE, and the grim 
instrument of justice at the other end — the 
chair, stark and fearsome, waiting for the kill. 

Sam Lester and Craig Manton sat in the 
rear row. Despite the sign, Lester still talked 
in a low soft voice, charged with high excite- 
ment. 

"My men are giving me a hand," Lester 
was saying. "That was Sergeant Conroy on 



By GEORGE-WILLIAM RAE 



33 



34 



GEORGE WILLIAM RAE 



the phone. They went over that alley in the 
rear of the Blue Moon again with a fine comb. 
They found a shell from the .32 that killed 
Slade ! He must've been killed in the alley, 
carried inside, and the girl is right — she did 
find him that way!" 

"It's all theory," Craig Manton said. He 
was a shrewd lawyer, knew his evidence. "The 
governor wouldn't — " 

"Yeah, I know," Sam Lester said bitterly. 

Manton wiped his mouth with the back of 
his hand. He looked tired, worn. 

He took a flask from his pocket, drank deep- 
ly. He replaced the flask in his pocket, then 
carefully wiped his lips with the cobalt-blue 
handkerchief which he always wore in the 
breast pocket of his coat. 

"Conroy is checking one last lead," Sam 
Lester said. "If it works out, I'll be able to 
put the finger on the real killer." 

CAM LESTER took one more telephone call 
^ in the autopsy room off the execution 
chamber. He was back quickly. 

"The warden is calling the governor one 
last time," he said. "We found out about an 
angle the D.A.'s invetisgating attorneys 
muffed, or passed up. There was another guy. 
A big shot. He was trying to make a play 
for Bluebird. I think I can pin it on him. We 
found out this other guy was being black- 
mailed by Spook Slade and that he was nearly 
broke and half-crazy because Bluebird wanted 
no part of him. He killed Spook Slade and 
put the frame on Bluebird." 

Craig Manton took another drink. "What're 
they waiting for?" he asked. 

Lester said, "The warden. He'll be back 
in a minute. Then he'll either go on with it 
or keep her in the cells. It all depends on 
what the governor says. I tied in that last 
piece of evidence. The warden knows that, 
too. That funny little thing that bothered me 
so much. I tied it in." 

Manton said, "I can't stand much more of 
this." 

"It won't be long," Lester said. His dark 
eyes were half closed. "Take it easy." 

Manton had his flask out again. "I can't 
stand it."_ 

"Take it easy, you got nothing to worry 
about. You're not going to the chair." 



Manton swung around savagely. "No, I'm 
not. But she is." 

"Maybe," Sam Lester murmured. 

"Maybe — maybe! Why don't they get il 
over with? Damn it, I can't stand it!" 

''You're not going to the chair." Lester'| 
voice was a low monotone. 

Manton's sullen eyes blazed suddenly. "An<i 
damn you, too !" he cried. "You've been play- 
ing cat and mouse with me all day! I see il 
now, you've been sweating me, working on 
my nerves. I see it now !" 

A rumble rose from the men on the bench- 
es. They turned and stared at Manton an<i 
Lester. Sam Lester was smiling. He saic 
nothing. 

"God knows what you've dug up," Manton 
went on, his voice rising. "You wouldn't le( 
well enough alone. Let tfie girl die like 1 
planned for her to die!" 

Manton stopped and stared around, wide- 
eyed. "Yes, I killed him because he was suck- 
ing me dry and keeping her away from me! 
He had a hold over her. She wouldn't give 
me a chance. ..." 

Sam Lester was on his feet as were all the 
men in the execution chamber. 

"You were the one who arranged for me 
to be a witness," Manton screamed at Lester, 
"You fixed it, didn't you, you devil! Well, 
you're coming with me ! " 

A gun glittered in Manton's hand. He 
swung it toward Sam Lester. 

At that instant a sharp blue flame darted 
from the police positive of Lester's man — the 
detective who had been masquerading as the 
cub reporter. 

Manton's gun became a great weight in hia 
hand. He dropped it and staggered back, eyes 
wide. Slowly he folded to the death chamber 
floor, gasping out his life. 

Sam Lester bent over him, "Get the doc," 
he said tersely. 

Lester took the cobalt-blue handkerchief 
from Manton's breast pocket and an envelope 
from his own. The blue thread in the en^ 
velope matched the blue of the handkerchiefs 

Sam Lester looked down at Craig MantonJ 

"It was on the gun, Manton, when you 
wiped the prints off. Just that blue thread] 
caught on the sight. Just a little blue thread 
to tie you up for Hell. ..." 



w**#w>*r*###*#*#ir#****#i, 



1 



Dime Mystery offers you stories of spine-tingling excitement, eerie mys- 
tery salted with more than a soupcon of horror. Here you will find stories 
by masters of the exotic murder mystery — such outstanding creators of 
crime-fiction as Dale Clark, Henry Norton, Robert Turner and Ken Lewis. 

Make a date with yourself for an evening of fascinating murder fiction 
enjoyment. The next issue will be out on September 4th! 



l^aijan $ JaKobssoti 




It was a dark night in Warrangel, India, when 
Dr. Butchia answered a hurry call to the outskirts 
of his village to treat a patient. In a dimly-lit 
house he found six brothers, one of them ill, the 
other five grimly expectant. One thing they prom- 
ised him — prompt payment of his bill. 

The doctor set to work. Despite his ministra- 
tions his patient sank steadily and five nights later 
the sick man died. 

Authorities found Dr. Butchia had been buried 
alive with his patient — and sentenced the five 
brothers to life at hard labor. 



The constancy of young Ahmed Djafek's love for 
wealthy Widow Koprulu had become a byword in 
Anatolia, Turkey — even "when she became desper- 
ately ill, he remained at her bedside, administer- 
ing to her wants, heedless of possible contagion 
from her mysterious malady. Friends finally were 
called in to witness a wedding at the sick-bed. 

The marriage rituals and festivities over, neigh- 
bors tiptoed out, sure the bride would recover — 
her voice had been a lot stronger than for some 
time — but she didn't. In fact, medical examina- 
tion proved conclusively that she had been dead 
at the time of her wedding — and the courts proved 
her groom to be a fortune-hunting — ventriloquist! 





White man's justice is old in the British colony 
of Burmel out Singapore way — and tenacious. 
Not too long ago authorities finally solved the 
150-year-old disappearance of two men and two 
women, known to have incurred the local natives' 
displeasure. A tropical storm helped them by fell- 
ing a giant tree and dislodging a huge slice of its 
bark. Foresters examining the tree for disease, 
found the bark had grown over a panel leading 
to a hollow cavity, containing four identifiable 
skeletons — obviously imprisoned alive! 

For a century and a half their living prison had 
continued its growth around them. 



In 1938 medical circles in Paris were set on 
their collective ears by a newcomer, one Dr. Louis 
Beneteau, whose bloody scalpel effected "cures" 
where others believed them impossible — so unusual 
were his treatises on cancer, his specialty, that he 
was invited to address a conference on cancer at 
the Sorbonne. In the meantime, though, he was 
called on to act as chance witness in a minor case 
in a Paris courtroom, and made such incoherent 
replies that the judge ordered him investigated. 

He turned out to be an escaped maniac from the 
Villejuif Asylum — an ex-carpenter with no medical 
background. His patients promptly keeled over in 
droves, while the "doctor" was taken back to his 
keepers, protesting smilingly, "Not really mad." 




35 




A Thrilling Mystery Novelette 
of Creeping Menace 



THE POOL OF FEAR 

By KEN LEWIS 

Perhaps that dark, bottomless pool, the strangely frightened 
girl, and the decayed, empty grandeur of the silent house 
should have warned me. . . . But I, too, counted myself as 
among the lost and the damned — and not even my grisly 
masquerade could save either Ellen or me from the living 
death that crept about us. 



CHAPTER ONE 

Dark Water 

1 DROPPED off the freight as it slowed 
for the last curve before reaching the 
Milvale yards. On either side of the rail- 
road cut, high clay bluffs cut off the view; 
but far ahead, shimmering vaguely in the 
wheat country heat, rose the towers of the 
flour mills which gave the town its only ex- 
cuse for existence. 

It looked like a thousand other places I'd 
seen in the past two years, and for the thou- 
sandth time I asked myself what it was I 
expected to find here, or anywhere else, for 
that matter. Then I shrugged, knocked some 
of the cinders out of my hair, and started up 
an old 'bo path which climbed the right bluff 
toward a grove of elms and sycamores at the 
36 



top. I'd almost reached the crest when I no- 
ticed the high wire fence girdling the trees 
there. A small sign, red and white, was nailed 
to the nearest post : 

TRESPASSERS BEWARE— 
THIS FENCE IS CHARGED! 

I cursed. It had been too much of a climb, 
almost thirty feet straight up in all this heat, 
just to turn around and go back down again. 
Besides, fences have always irritated me. In 
the end, I shinnied up the post, taking care not 
to touch the top strand of wire, and dropped 
over into the trees on the other side. 

About ten yards in, the grove began to 
thin, and I could hear muted sounds of splash- 
ing ahead. Ten yards more, and I came out 

He screamed and fired his first shot . > i 



38 



KEN LEWIS 



at the edge of a natural, rock-bound pool — 
the kind of place they call a gravel pit in 
California, but which here would be known 
as a quarry hole. 

A girl was swimming in the pool, with 
just her head, shoulders, arms and feet show- 
ing intermittently as she stroked. 

I started to fade back into the trees, and 
then I caught her watching me and grinned 
at her. 

"Pardon me. But is this the Milvale public 
baths?" 

She laughed. Her face puckered up like a 
child's and her eyes crinkled. They were nice 
eyes, a kind of gray-blue which went well 
with her taffy hair, and there was no fear in 
them at all ; only a very small touch of obscure 
longing. 

But there was something about the laugh 
which didn't quite fit — certain high thin over- 
tones I'd heard before. I studied her. 

"I didn't think it was that funny." 

"You don't know how funny it was. No 
one's come over that fence in years." 

"I don't like fences." 

Her eyes seemed to darken a little. Tread- 
ing water, she looked almost boyish, with her 
slender freckled face and flat beautifully 
curved lips. 

"No, neither do I. Well, as long as you're 
here, you might as well join me." 

I eyed the dancing water hungrily. "Love 
to. Only I seem to have forgotten my swim- 
ming trunks." 

"That's all right. I'll promise not to look 
till you get in." 

Something told me this was crazy; that I 
ought to be on my way right now. Instead, I 
grinned. 

"Fair enough. It's a deal." 

She turned in the water to face the knoll 
opposite, while I slipped out of shoes, pants 
and shirt. 

"How's the bottom?" I called. "I mean, 
can I jump in right here without cracking my 
noggin?" 

"Oh, there isn't any bottom. Or if there 
is, no one's ever been deep enough to find it. 
I think it goes straight through to China. It's 
artesian, you know. Very cold." 

I dived in head first, and felt the pull on my 
heart as the icy water wrapped me. I came 
up, gasping and tingling, and found her laugh- 
ing at me from about ten feet away. 

She didn't make one-tenth the work of it 
that I did, but she always managed to keep 
the same distance between us. Finally, I had 
to take hold of a root beside the bank and 
call it quits. 

"You're good at this. Like you'd done it 
before." 

She was facing the other way, but I could 



tell by her voice that she didn't like my 
implication. 

"Why shouldn't I be able to swim? That's 
all there is to do around here." She pulled 
herself out and disappeared into the trees. 

A LL the time I was dressing, I could hear 
■*"*• her back in the grove somewhere, sob- 
bing. I tried to tell myself that I didn't get 
it; that I didn't know what was wrong, and 
didn't care. But I think I was beginning to 
get it, even then. 

She was sitting hunched over on a log 
when I finally found her. She had put on 
a pair of blue coveralls, but there was plenty 
that was feminine about her. 

"I didn't mean anything by that crack," I 
said. 

She had stopped crying now, but her mouth 
had a sullen twist. "I know what you meant. 
And I asked for it. What else could I ex- 
pect, inviting a — a tramp from the railroad 
tracks to go swimming with me. Do you think 
I'd have done a thing like that, if there was 
anyone else I could ask? I guess you don't 
know what it's like to be lonely, so lonely 
you'd welcome the company of the lowest, 
tramps that ever lived, just to have another 
human being around ! " 

She wasn't trying to be gentle about it. I 
nodded. "Yes," I said slowly. "I know all 
about loneliness. I guess I could write a book 
about it. But if you're so damned forlorn, why 
don't you find somebody respectable to play 
with ? I thought that fence was to keep other 
people out, not you in." 

She laughed, and it was all ugly overtone 
this time. "The fence isnt' needed to keep 
other people away. I'm enough for that. No 
one will come near this place, not even to 
work. They think I'm sick." 

"Are you sick?" 

"I had a nervous breakdown." 

She watched me carefully for my reaction. 
I shook my head.- 

"That doesn't mean anything. People have 
been having them for years, and getting over 
them. " 

She was studying me more closely now; still 
frowning, but with something new in her 
eyes. 

"What's your name?" 

I don't know why I gave it to her straight 
I hadn't done that for two years. But some- 
how, despite her ugly mood, I liked this girl 
and felt sorry for her. I told her the truth. 

"Stephen Langley, not that it matters." 

She nodded. "Yes, I knew you were a 
doctor. The way you looked at me, back there 
at the pool. Just like Dr. Welsh, at the 
sanatorium." 

I could feel the old bitterness crowding me 



THE POOL OF FEAR 



39 



hard. I shook my head. "You were right the 
first time. I'm just a bum." 

"I read your book, Dr. Stephen Langley. 
'The Incidence of Maniac Depressive Symp- 
toms in Late Adolescence'. Don't tell me 
you're not the man who wrote that book. " 

"No," I said. "I'm not the man. I may 
have his name, his measurements, even his 
fingerprints. But the man who wrote that 
book died two years ago. He's as dead as that 
log you're sitting on. And so, goodbye." 

She let me get as far as the third row of 
trees. Then she called out suddenly, and her 
voice had that little rising note of hysteria 
that I'd noticed earlier in her laugh. 

"Doctor! Doctor Langley! You can't 
leave me now, when I need you so ! It's in 
your ethics, you can't turn away a patient!" 

I wheeled to find her directly behind me. 
Her lips were parted and her eyes were bright. 
She was panting. 

"I told you I'm not a doctor any more," I 
snapped. "And a bum has no ethics !" 

"All right. All right then, bum ! I'll put it 
this way: How'd you like to sleep between 
sheets for a change? How'd you like a nice 
warm homecooked meal? . . . Oh, I'm not 
offering any handout. There's work to be 
done around this place, and I told you the town 
people won't come here to do it. I could 
probably get my brother to put you on for 
awhile, as handyman. Or are you afraid, like 
the others?" 

I knew it was just a ruse. That she thought, 
if I stayed, she could find some way to make 
me treat her. 

I thought so, too. And I knew I had no 
business doing that — nor any right to. 

I said. "What's your name?" 

"Ellen. Ellen Beaumont." 

"All right, Miss Beaumont. But strictly in 
the capacity of handyman." 

rpHE house was one of those two-story 
■'■colonial types, with a facade of decaying 
white pillars, and a shingle roof that needed 
patching. We reached it from the pool by 
crossing a rolling five-acre pasture, by-passing 
a ruined garden plot, and circling a musty 
brick carriage house. A brick drive wound 
through the front lawn from the gates out 
front, and the lawn itself was dotted by huge 
old black walnut trees, the grass growing high 
around their trunks and littered with the rot- 
ting husk of last year's nuts. 

She led me to a second-floor bathroom that 
must have pre-dated the. first world war, 
and waited in the hall outside while I shaved 
with rusty water from a thumping faucet- It 
•was as though she feared I might escape 
if left to my own devices. 

"One thing," she called. "You mustn't tell 



Tim about me swimming in the pool. He's 
forbidden me to go there." 

"Why?" 

"My mother drowned there, when I was a 
little girl." 

"An accident?" , 

"Yes. She had a cramp. But Tim had to 
pull her out, afterwards. I was too small, and 
Daddy didn't swim. , . He's never forgotten 
it." 

"Tim your brother? He lives here, too?" 

"Yes. Dad left the place in my name, but 
Tim had to take charge when I was committed. 
He also looks after my interests at the mill. 
Poor Tim — he's practically spent the past ten 
years taking charge of me. He'll go on doing 
it, too, unless I can find some way to make 
you help me. He's a grand guy — very de- 
voted. But I don't want to ruin what's left 
of his life. ..." 

I grunted. "What makes you think you 
need any help? The hospital discharged you, 
didn't it?" 

"Yes. But only because they'd given up on 
me. Oh, they didn't tell me that, of course. 
But I know. I know they think I'm a hope- 
less case." 

"And you think I could succeed where they 
failed? A bum like me?" 

"You could try. I've read your book. I 
know how highly it was regarded at the san." 

I threw open the door between us. 

"Look, Lady. Let's get this straight: I'm 
not a doctor any more. I couldn't treat you, 
even if I wanted to." 

"You've been disqualified?" 

"Not officially. But I've disqualified my- 
self." 

"How? Won't you tell me about it?" 

I could feel myself freezing up inside ; could 
feel my thoughts twisting and turning, des- 
perately hunting some cranny of escape. Then 
I remembered the similar symptoms I'd wit- 
nessed so often in my patients, and the argu- 
ments I'd had to use to break them down; to 
convince them that running away did no good, 
that it only prolonged the agony, and the cure. 
And at last I faced her. 

"Yes," I said. "I'll tell you about it for 
your own good. It's not pretty, but here it 
is : . . . I had a patient once ; a woman, who 
thought she was in love with me. I put her 
down as a mild neurotic, when actually she 
was a dangerous paranoiac whom anyone but 
a bumbling incompetent blinded by his own 
ego would have committed to an institution. 

"But I had faith in her; confidence in my 
ability to help her — and I even let her come 
to my own home for treatment. And one day, 
when I was out of the room for the moment, 
she stole into the kitchen where my wife 
was getting dinner. She hated my wife; 



40 



KEN LEWIS 



blamed her for my own failure to reciprocate 
her love. There was a butcher knife lying 
on the table, and she used it. . . She ended up 
in a hospital for the criminally insane; my 
wife ended up in the morgue; and I ended up 
riding the rods, after trying various other 
methods of escape, and finding them all 
futile. 

"Now do you see why I can't help you? 
Why I could never treat anyone again? Why 
it wouldn't be fair to me, or the patient?" 

I must have shouted the last of it. She had 
slumped down on the edge of the tub while 
I talked, and now her eyes were the biggest 
and softest eyes I've ever seen. But her voice, 
when it came, was clear and crisp : 

"No. No, I don't see. You had the knowl- 
edge and the ability once, and you didn't lose 
them by just making a mistake. The doctor 
doesn't live who hasn't made mistakes. Most 
of them compensate for those mistakes by the 
help they are able to give others afterwards. 
All I'm doing is offering you that chance. 
You're my last hope. And if there's any good 
left in you at all, you're going to help me. 
At least, you're going to try ! " 

CHAPTER TWO 

The House That Terror Built 

TWO brisk honks of greeting came from 
the street out front, followed by the rasp 
of the front gates opening and the sound of a 
car turning into the drive. 

Her face lighted. "There's Tim now. You'll 
like him!" She raced along the hall and 
down the stairs. 

"Remember," I growled, hustling to keep 
up. "I'm just Joe Doaks, an applicant for the 
job of handyman." 

The car, a '35 Packard sedan, had stopped 
before the veranda when we reached the door, 
and a tall slender man with sandy hair and a 
thin red line of mustache came bounding up 
the front steps. He shot me a glance of sheer 
surprise, dropped the market bag he was 
toting, then ignored me completely while he 
gave his sister a big warm grin and a long 
hug. Her eyes danced like a little girl's wel- 
coming Daddy home from the office. 

At last she pushed back, laughing, and 
pointed to me. "Look, Tim — what I've found ! 
This is Steve Lang, our efficient new handy- 
man!" 

He subjected me to a half-amused scrutiny. 
He had red-brown eyes with that little shine 
an over-active thyrus sometimes causes, and 
I put him down as at least ten years older 
than her, which would make him about my 
age — thi rty- three. 

"Well," he said, "he certainly has the shoul- 



ders for it. How'd he get in — climb the 
fentfc?" 

"Of course not, silly! He called to me 
from the gate. And when I found out he 
wanted a job, I let him in right away. I know 
how hard you've been hunting for someone to 
help with the work around here." 

"Stranger in town?" 

I nodded. "Got in this afternoon — by fast 
freight." 

His grin was just the right size. He hadn't 
exactly impressed me as the democratic type, 
but now he put out his hand. 

"Glad to have you with us, Lang. You can 
bunk in the gardener's old room in the car- 
riage house. But I'm afraid you'll have to put 
up with us at meal times. We haven't the 
facilities for keeping a separate table. . . And 
speaking of meal time, I'm drooling! You'll 
find some steaks in the bag, Sis. I think there's 
enough for three. . ." 

The steaks were tough. We worked on them 
awhile with the blunt old case knives we were 
using, and then he pushed back his chair with 
a mock frown. 

"This seems to call for sterner measures." 

He crossed to an old-fashioned china closet 
in the corner, unlocked its top drawer with a 
key from his pocket, and took out three sharp, 
short-bladed steak knives with ornate ivory 
handles. He passed them around. 

The meal done, he turned to me : 

"Your first job, Lang, will be to take my 
place in the kitchen and help Ellen with the 
dishes. I have to dash. Those old fuddy- 
duddies who run the mill pick the most un- 
godly hours for their board meetings. . . 

"By the way, when you're through, you'd 
better put those knives back where they came 
from. I left the drawer ajar, but it locks 
when closed. That set's a sort of heirloom — 
one of the few remaining mementoes of a 
decadent family's grand past. It would be a 
shame if anything happened to them." 

When he'd gone, Ellen made dish water 
in the kitchen while I cleared the table. Then 
she washed while I dried, getting through 
first and apologizing for leaving me to finish. 

"Maybe it hasn't been much a day for you," 
she said. "But I'm dead! More excitement 
than there's been around here for weeks. I'm 
going to bed." 

Her eyes did have a tired, febrile look, at 
that; 

After she left, I put the dishes and silver 
in their proper places in the cupboard, as she'd 
showed me. But when I came to the steak 
knives, I could find only two. 

I went through the kitchen and dining room 
throroughly, hunting the third, and finally 
opened the drawer in the china closet where , 
they were kept. There were three in there, 



_ 






THE POOL OF FEAR 



41 



making five of the set of six. I put my two 
with the others and returned to the kitchen, 
thinking that perhaps the missing member had 
been dropped into the regular cutlery drawer 
by mistake. 

It hadn't. It hadn't, hut I did find out one 
thing: That drawer didn't contain a single 
cutting instrument worth the name. Just a 
couple old paring knives, so dull and worn that 
they'd have bent double if you tried to force 
them through anything more solid than a head 
of cabbage. 

I could feel the skin tightening across my 
scalp. Apparently there was more than one 
reason why Timothy Beaumont kept those nice 
sharp steak knives under lock and key ! 

After that, I went up the stairs and knocked 
on her door. 

"I want to talk to you, Ellen." 

"I'm in bed. Can't it wait until morning?" 
Her voice held the sulky sullenness of the 
early afternoon. 

"No, it can't wait." I tried the door and 
found it locked. "Your brother gave_ me 
specific instructions about those steak knives. 
I want him to find all six in the drawer when 
he comes home." 

"I don't know what you're talking about. 
Go away now and stop bothering me, or I'll 
have to report you." 

So she'd have to report me ! She, who less 
than six hours ago had practically been on 
her knees, begging me to stay ! 

"Ellen," I said tightly. "I want that knife!" 

"Ye gods — you've got knives on the brain! 
I saw that this afternoon ! Why don't you go 
through your own pockets? ..." Her voice 
softened a little. "I'm sorry, Steve. It's just 
that I'm so tired. . . The gardener's room is 
in the loft of the carriage house. You'll find 
a key, flashlight and clean blankets in that 
closet at the end of the hall. That knife must 
still be in the kitchen some place. We'll look 
for it again in the morning. . ." 

FOR awhile, I was willing to believe her. 
To believe that maybe Tim had taken the 
knife, hoping to throw suspicion on her — or 
me. But after I'd settled myself in the creak- 
ing bed in the carriage house loft, and had_ 
time to think about it some more, I knew she 
was lying. 

And I knew something else: That I didn't 
want to get mixed up in a thing like that 
again. I tried to tell myself that this was as 
good a way to spend a couple of weeks as any. 
That the bed was soft, and the food passable, 
and if I stuck it out till I'd accumulated a 
little stake in my jeans, the going would be 
easier when I hit the road again. 

But I could feel the old compulsion build- 
ing up inside me ; the compulsion to be on my 



way, no matter where. And the fact remained 
that anyone who didn't have to, would be 
crazy to stay around a place where knives 
disappeared as soon as they were taken from 
their locked drawers for a minute. Brother, 
that was just asking for it ! 

Still, it took me almost two hours of that 
kind of thinking to get me out of bed and into 
my clothes again. Because through it all I 
kept remembering the way she'd looked that 
afternoon, and the way her voice had sounded, 
pleading for the help she thought I could give 
her. And she needed help, I knew that, now. 
Regardless of who had taken the knife, she 
needed help. . . 

A few yards beyond the carriage house 
door, I paused for a last look at her window. 
It was dark. An early moon rode above the 
railroad cut to the north, and in its diffused 
glow the rot and decadence of the place was 
washed away. The house stood big and white 
against the night, with only a few vaguely 
darker patches to show where the siding 
needed paint, and the roof, new shingles. 

The weeds in the neglected garden plot 
might have been flowers about to bloom; and 
the rolling acreage beyond, a pasture where 
trim young Morgans frolicked, waiting to be 
broken to the saddle. In the moonlight the 
whole place looked like the haven of stately 
dignified good living it once had been. 

But it didn't tempt me much. I'd seen it 
by daylight. 

Skirting the trees to the point where the 
path dead-ended against the far side of the 
fence, I had to pass by the pool again. Its 
surface glistened like black glass beneath the 
moon, and I remembered how good that cold 
spring water had felt that afternoon. It was 
the time of night when the world is supposed 
to be cooling off, but that wheat country heat 
hadn't lifted an inch since noon, and pretty 
soon I was pulling off my clothes again, for 
a last dip before I went over the fence. 

I'd been splashing around for about ten 
minutes, when I heard someone coming across 
the pasture, moving fast and kind of panting 
about it. I turned in the water to face the 
sound, and pretty soon there he was, Timothy 
Beaumont, silhouetted on top of the knoll. His 
long thin arms and legs moved with a sort 
of jerky tension, like a badly-manipulated 
marionette; his tongue was caught hard be- 
tween his teeth, and his face was as white as 
the skull of one long dead. His fingers opened 
and closed spasmodically on the butt of the 
12-gauge pump gun in his arms. 

Before I could yell at him to take it easy, he 
caught sight of my face bobbing in the water, 
and the gun barrel levelled off. 

I submerged. 

None too soon. The sound of the gun was 



42 



KEN LEWIS 



a hollow ringing in the water, and I couW 
almost feel the shot slapping against the sur- 
face above my head. 

I scissored into the shadows of the rock 
ledge where he stood, before I came up for 
air. 

"Don't shoot," I gasped. "I was leaving 
anyway." 

The water interfered with his sense of 
direction. I could see him almost directly 
above me, searching the far bank with fren- 
zied eyes. 

"Who — who is it?" he croaked. 

"Steve Lang. The man you hired this 
afternoon. I just came down for a midnight 
plunge." 

"My God! My God— don't ever do that 
again. I — I thought it was prowlers." 

He collapsed on the ledge, his face slack 
with relief, too spent to think of helping me 
over the side. 

"You look like you might have thought it 
was a ghost," I said drily, hunkering down 
on the grass beside him. "How'd you know 
anyone was down here?" 

"The fence. I heard you when you touched 
the fence. It's wired to a buzzer in my 
room. . . We've been having trouble with 
prowlers lately. I haven't had a full night's 
sleep in weeks. But I've never been able to 
catch them at it." 

"Nuts. What is there in here that anyone 
would want to steal ? " 

He shook his head. "No, it's not that. I — I 
think it's some of the youngsters from town, 
trying to sneak in here for a swim. The 
water's too cold for that. I'm afraid they 
might drown. That's why I put up the fence 
in the first place." 

"Well," I pointed out, "filling them full of 
lead's indeed a very poor way to insure their 
safety." '. - 

He tried to laugh. It came out as a dry 
whinny. He was still too shaken to more than 
talk coherently. 

"Oh — I wouldn't shoot at them. Just over 
their heads. Give them something to think 
about, in case they had any plans for coming 
back." 

T THOUGHT of the way that shot had 
■*■ spanked the surface at the exact spot 
where my head had been a split second before, 
and decided that maybe Sister Ellen wasn't 
the only Beaumont who could use a good 
psychiatrist. 

"I didn't come within twenty yards of that 
fence tonight," I said, studying the grove 
which fringed the pool's far side. "How 
long has it been since those trees were 
pruned? Probably a branch has grown so 
that it scrapes the fence when the breeze is 



right. I'll try to locate it and cut it off to- 
morrow. " 

He shook his head weakly. "We had an 
accident here once before. I don't want a thing 
like that to happen again." 

"You mean your mother? Ellen told me 
about it this afternoon." 

He eyed me dully. "Yes. Ellen's mother." 

"Not yours?" 

"No. My mother was the old man's first 
■ wife. She — she left him when I was five." 

"And left you, too?" 

His voice got a little more starch in it 
"No one knew her ever condemned her for 
it ! The old man wasn't easy to live with. El- 
len's the only one who ever got along with 
him. . . Look, old man, I'm afraid you'd better 
not stay here, after all. There's something 
about Ellen you don't know." 

I could feel the sack coming, and all at 
once an unreasoning stubbornness possessed 
me. Half an hour ago I'd been all ready to 
call it quits and leave. Now I felt just as ob- 
stinate about being kicked out. The ramifi- 
cations of this thing were intriguing. 

"I know all about Ellen!" I cut in. "Beau- 
mont, I'm afraid I invaded your premises un- 
der false pretenses this afternoon. But it 
was the only way I could get in without arous- 
ing her suspicions. And for the time, I prefer 
to remain icognito where she's concerned." 

He was eyeing me more closely now. "What 
are you getting at?" 

I grinned apologetically. "The fact that I'm 
really Doctor Stephen Langley of California. 
My old friend, Dr. Welsh, sent me here. He 
wasn't quite sure of Ellen's condition when 
she left the sanatorium, and he knew I 
specialized in her type of aberration." 

His eyes were narrow. "Why didn't you 
tell me this before?" 

I shrugged. "This is the first chance I've 
had to see you alone. " 

Gradually, his shoulders relaxed, and a 
look of very real relief crossed his face. He 
held out his hand. 

"By God, Doc," he breathed, "I'm glad 
you're here. Frankly, I — I haven't been too 
satisfied with Ellen's condition lately. She 
seemed to be all right when she first came 
home. But during the past few weeks she- 
well, I'm afraid she's slipping back again." 

I nodded. "Small wonder, cloistered away 
here with no outside contacts. She needs 
people around her, friends, something to take 
her mind off herself. Have you tried to do 
anything about that?" 

He nodded ruefully. "Yes, I tried. I plan- 
ned a surprise homecoming party for her, the 
night she came back. Not a soul showed 
up. . . I guess you don't know much about 
the people in these little back-country towns, 



__ _ 



THE POOL OF FEAR 



43 



Doc. They're still pretty medieval when it 
comes to things like nervous disorders. And 
m some idiotic way, I think they blame her 
for what happened to Jeremy Richards." 
"Who's Jeremy Richards?" 
- "Her first and only beau." Again his eyes 
narrowed. "I supposed you were familiar 
with her case history." 

I shook my head. "I follow rather eccen- 
tric methods, Beaumont. I prefer to go into 
these things cold, with no preconceived diag- 
noses to throw me off the scent. . . Tell me 
about it. When did she first begin to show 
symptoms of emotional instability?" 

He looked away. "She was always a little 
on the high-strung, nervous side," he said. 
"But nothing serious ever happened till the 
night Jeremy Richards jilted her," 

"All right — let's have it. What sort of guy 
was this Richards?" 

He shrugged. "Oh, he seemed to be a nice 
enough lad. He delivered groceries here; 
that's how they met. They fell in love and de- 
cided to elope. His folks didn't want him to 
marry, and she had some silly notion that I 
wouldn't aprove, either. . . . But we've always 
been rather close to each other, especially since 
the old man died. So a day or so before the 
scheduled elopement she broke down and told 
me all about it. 

"I won't pretend to have been overjoyed. 
They were only nineteen at the time, and — 
well, young Richards wasn't exactly in the 
Beaumont social circle. But she'd made up her 
mind, and after all, that was all that mattered. 
I hope I have more sense than to try to tell 
any girl whom to fall in love with — especially 
my own sister. . . . But I pointed out that an 
elopement would be foolish; they could be 
married right here in her own home. She was 
tickled to death, but afraid Jerry might not 
like it, if he found out. So we decided to sur- 
prise him. 

"She would go down to meet him when he 
came up the path from the tracks, as original- 
ly planned. Then I would step out of the trees, 
waving my shotgun, and marshal them up to 
the house, where the minister and wedding 
guests would be waiting. The whole thing 
would just be a big gag. I'm afraid it was 
rather crude, but you know the sort of thing, 
the smart young set in any town thinks is 
funny." He paused. 

"But I take it Jeremy didn't show up for 
the party?" 

"He didn't show up. Of course, it's obvious 
what happened. They had been putting too 
much pressure on him at home — probably 
threatening him with an annulment if he went 
through with it — and he couldn't take iC But 
he couldn't stand to break the news to Ellen, 
either. So he lit out. And he hasn't been 
heard from since." 



"GHE cracked up that night?" 

^ He nodded heavily. "We left the house 
together, with the guests sitting around in the 
dark and giggling at my prop shotgun. She 
took up a position at the top of the path, 
there wasn't any fence then, and I hid back in 
the trees, where I could watch her and time 
my entrance. I could see her tightening up, as 
the minutes dragged by and no one showed up 
from the tracks below. And finally she had 
hysterics and collapsed, and I had to carry her 
back to the house and put her to bed; to tell 
the guests they could go on home now, that 
there'd be no wedding at the Beaumont men- 
age that night." His jaw tightened. "It wasn't 
more than a week till they had to come and 
take her away." 

He was shaking all over now with the strain 
of reliving it. I put a hand on his arm and 
helped him up. On the way back to the house, 
he suggested that I move into the room across 
the hall from hers, where I could observe her 
better. 

"We'll tell her the gardener's room's unten- 
able — rats or something." 

He waited outside the carriage house while 
I went in and picked up my bed-roll. Then 
we entered the house together and walked up 
to the second floor hall. 

His room was the first to the right of the 
stairs. The door was open, and as he stepped 
through it, I saw something gleam in the shaft 
of moonlight across the room. 

The something was an ivory-hafted steak 
knife, held in the hand of Ellen Beaumont. 

\ S MY eyes adjusted to the gloom, I could 
•*"*■ see her in there, standing by his bed in 
her nightgown. She was facing us, and her 
face was as blank as a sleeping baby's. All but 
her eyes. They held a kind of dull sickly 
shine. 

Then they fastened on him, and her fea- 
tures convulsed in an expression of the most 
burning and implacable hatred I've ever seen. 
The knife came up, and she began to advance 
slowly toward us. 

He stumbled back, his face as white as it 
had been down by the pool. "Oh, God — " he 
choked. "Throw the blankets at her. Do 
something." His fingers began to scrabble 
along the wall, hunting the light switch. 

I forced them down. " She's somnambulant," 
I hissed. "A sudden shock right now might 
force her into a crisis from which she'd never 
recover ! Get back in the hall — out of sight. 
Go get her a sedative, if there's any in the 
house." 

"Th-there's nembutal," he whispered, from 
behind me. "But she doesn't react to it very 
well. I've tried it before, but she always stays 
awake." 

"Get it anyway. A double dose. Put it in a 



^44 



KEN LEWIS 



glass of milk, and leave it on top of the china 
closet downstairs. But for God's sake, stay 
out of her sight! Wait in the kitchen. . . . 

I could hear him stumbling down the steps 
behind me. I was watching her. She had 
stopped moving when he disappeared from the 
room, and now her eyes were as black as be- 
fore. But the knife was still lifted. 

I remained perfectly motionless. "Hello, 
Ellen," I said softly, as though I was talking 
te a sleeping child. "I'm glad you found the 
knife. Now we can put it back in the drawer 
downstairs, before Tim comes home." 

"Timm — ?" The words were thick, slurred. 
"Timm— not home?" 

"Not yet," I crooned. "We'll have time 
to put the knife back where it belongs, before 
he gets here. Come on, we'll do it together." 
Her eyes swung dully to the knife, as though 
she had never seen it before. "All — all right, 
Stevie." 

I stepped forward slowly and took her arm. 
The one with the knife. I let my fingers rest 
gently on her elbow; but all the way down- 
stairs I was ready to tighten that grip like a 
vise if the need arose. 

The drawer of the china closet was still 
ajar. She dropped the knife into it without a 
tremor, and then I picked up the drugged 
glass of milk Tim had left on the cabinet, and 
offered it to her. 

"Here's a nice glass of milk I poured you 
to help you sleep," I said. "Drink it, and 
then we'll go to bed." 

She swallowed it like an obedient five-year- 

[ old. Then she said, "I don't want to go to 

[ bed yet, Stevie. I want to be with you. " 

I walked her over to an old-fashioned love 

seat in the corner. She didn't seem to want to 

talk, so we just sat there. Pretty soon her 

arms slid around my neck and she kissed me. 

I kissed back. What else could I do? 

It did something to me. But before I had 

time to think about that, her lips had left my 

mouth and her eyes had closed, and she was 

sleeping gently with her head on my shoulder. 

Ten minutes later, when her breathing had 

deepened and her head had slipped a little, I 

picked her up and carried her back upstairs. 

She was sleeping like the enchanted princess 

when I tiptoed out of her room. 

Tim was still in the kitchen when I got back 
downstairs. He had a fifth of bourbon, and 
there were still four drinks left in it. I had 
three of them. 

"You say she doesn't usually react to 
nembutal?" I asked. 

"That was a triple dose," he told me grim- 
ly. "In a way, she reacts to a normal dose, too. 
But she doesn't get sleepy — just high. So high 
that she even draws a blank the next morn- 
ing." 
I nodded. "It has that effect on some people. 



Leaves them conscious and even lucid after a 
fashian. That's why it's sometimes used in 
childbirth now. But if it's no good as a seda- 
tive for her, how come you keep it around?" 

He shrugged. "It works fine, on me." 

Again I nodded. "Something like this to- 
night has happened before, hasn't it?" 

He eyed me glumly. " Frankly — yes. Though 
it's never been quite this close before. But 
that's why I always lock her door from the 
.outside, before I turn in. Only that damned 
buzzer sounded before I got around to it to- 
night." 

I poured myself another drink. "Well, you 
mustn't let it affect your feeling for her. She 
was walking in her sleep — acting out a night- 
mare. Probably didn't recognize yOu at all in 
your true identity, when she started for you 
with that knife." 

The liquor had brought back some of his 
color. He was even able to manage a wry 
grin. "I know. But you must admit it is 
damned disconcerting." 

CHAPTER THREE 

Return of the Living Dead 

T WENT to her room at nine the next morn- 
A ing, with a hot pot of coffee and eggs and 
bacon in an antique chafing dish. She hadn't 
stirred from the position in which I'd left her 
the night before. Her taffy hair was tousled 
on the pillow, and her face was very soft and 
young and vaguely disturbed in repose. 

I put up the blinds and returned to her bed. 
She opened her eyes to find me smiling down 
at her. She blinked bewilderedly, and then 
recognition swam into them, and she lifted one 
hand from the covers in a clinging gesture. 
Her lips moved. 

"Oh, Steve, I'm so glad you're here." 

I grinned brightly. "Thought you might 
like breakfast in bed, for a change. How do 
you feel, this fine hot morning?" 

She twitched slightly and her eyes dark- 
ened. 

"Terrible — except about you being here. My 
head aches, and I feel all sick and scared in- 
side, like I'd had another of those horrible 
dreams." 

"You dream a lot?" 

"Sometimes. But I can never remember a 
thing about them the next morning. Just that 
I always wake up so tired and frightened, aft-' 
erwards. It's maddening. ..." 



We had been for a swim in the pool, and 
were lying on the knoll now, letting the sun 
dry us. Three days had passed since my first 
hectic night with the Beaumonts, and so far 



THE POOL OF FEAR 



45 



I hadn't been getting- anywhere much. There 
had been no more somnambulistic nightmares. 

"Ellen," I said dreamily. "Tell me about 
the niyht you were going to get married — " 

Her face clouded, and I went on quickly: 
"Never mind, if you don't feel up to it. But 
Tim said that you collapsed down here that 
night. That was a pretty strong reaction, un- 
der the circumstances. I wouldn't have ex- 
pected that to happen till you'd at least had 
time to make sure that Jerry had really run 
out on you — that he hadn't merely been pre- 
vented from meeting you by some accident or 
sudden illness, that night." 

Her head shook. "It's not that I'd mind 
telling you if I could, Steve. It's just that I 
. can't remember — not a thing. Couldn't even 
remember, the next day. The doctors at the 
san put it down as amnesia accompanying 
emotional shock. But even they couldn't pierce 
that particular curtain." 

I grunted. "I'd like to know this Jeremy 
Richards," I said. "I'd like to see what kind 
of a bird could walk out on a swell dish like 
you. You don't happen to have a picture of 
him, do you?" 

She smiled wanly. "I don't need a picture 
of him, with you around. You're very like 
him, Steve. You even have his tall dark hand- 
someness, and football shoulders. You're just 
a little older, Steve, that's all. But so am I. 
You could take his place — completely." 

It was very hard for me to remember the 
proper relationship between doctor and patient 
at moments like this. 

T DON'T know exactly when it was that I 
■*• definitely decided on hypnosis. Sometime 
the next day, I think. I knew the danger of 
trying it this early in the treatment; that it 
might fail completely, and make the final solu- 
tion that much harder. But the old restless 
.compulsion was on me again, and I knew, too, 
that the more time I spent with Ellen Beau- 
mont, the harder it would be for me to say 
goodbye when the time did come. Then, there 
was always the danger that Tim might some- 
how find out my true status here and kick me 
out forthwith, thus ending the treatment right 
now. 

I explained all this to her, leaving out my 
personal feelings, of course, and she agreed. 
She'd undergone it before, at the hospital, 
without too much success. 

So I took her up to the gardener's room in 
the carriage loft, on one of those warm lazy 
afternoons, and had her stretch out on the bed 
in her sunsuit and get comfortable. Then I 
pulled all the shades down tight, and carefully 
punched a tiny hole in one, so that aTtiletto- 
thin blade of sunlight pinpointed the low table- 
top beside her head, where her eyes could rest 
upon it naturally. 



After that, I assembled my razor and cov- 
ered the spot with its flanged end, till a single 
flickering bead of light danced there in the 
three-quarter darkness. I told her to concen- 
trate on that glow. 

She reacted beautifully. It was no trick at 
all to put her under. 

You know what hypnosis is, of course: 
merely an induced sleep in which the subject's 
subconscious remains in contact with the prac- 
titioner. 

All it takes on the part of the patient is the 
ability to relax completely, plus an implicit 
faith and confidence in the doctor. What it 
takes on the part of the doctor is something of 
a profesrpnal secret, dangerous in the hands of 
the untra-i »ed, which we won't go into here. 

When I judged that she had reached the 
proper state, I "began to question her slowly 
and softly. It was a difficult, exhausting and 
complex process, trying to dredge up those se- 
crets which the tortured mind had striven so 
frantically to force down into oblivion. But at 
last I decided I'd achieved the maximum pos- 
sible results. One of the things I took especial 
note of was the complete description she was 
able to give to me, of the way Jeremy Rich- 
ards had been dressed on the night he dis- 
appeared ! 

F\ONE, I broke contact, and decided to let 
her sleep it off normally. I was about to 
tiptoe out for a smoke, when the loft door was 
flung violently inward, and Timothy Beau- 
mont stood there on the threshold, taking in 
the half-revealed scene. His thin face dark- 
ened with fury, and his eyes became danger- 
ous pinpoints of red-brown light. 

"This does it, Langley!" he said thickly. 
"You're through!" 

I pushed him roughly out the door, closing 
it behind me, and sidewheeled him down the 
stairs. 

"Shut up!" I hissed. "You'll wake her! If 
you have to shout, at least wait till we get into 
the house, to do it." 

"What were you doing to my sister?" 

I snapped, "I was hypnotizing her. It's a 
recognized therapeutic technique in cases like 
this." 

He was still trembling violently with rage. 
"You might be able to fool me with that dou- 
ble-talk, if I didn't know the truth about you ! 
But I called Welsh the day after you got here ! 
I found out he knew you only by reputation — 
and that wasn't good. He told me how you'd 
cracked up two years ago — gone on a two- 
month bender and then dropped out of sight — 
after botching a job on one of your patients, 
and letting her kill your wife ! . . . 
" "I should have kicked you out right then. 
But damn it, you seemed to know how to han- 
dle Ellen, and under the circumstances I was 



46 



KEN LEWIS 



glad to have someone else around the place for 
awhile, even if it was only a drunken bum. 
But this today is too much ! Get out ! If you're 
not off the place in ten minutes, I'll call the 
police ! " 

I didn't say anything. What was there to 
say? I just walked leadenly up the stairs, 
while he waited fuming by the telephone in 
the lower hall, and gathered up the handful of 
pocket articles I'd left in my room. On the. 
way back down, I slipped into his room for 
a minute and examined the shotgun he kept 
beside the bed there. Its magazine contained 
five shells. I pumped them out, removed the 
paper wadding at their ends, and poured the 
shot from each into my pocket. Then I refilled 
the casings with strips torn from my pocket 
handkerchief, tamping the cloth down tight 
against the powder charges, and Replaced the 
waddings at their ends. After that, I re- 
inserted the shells in the magazine and left 
the gun where it had been before. 

If death paid a visit here tonight — and I 
had an uncanny feeling that it might — then I 
meant to make sure that it didn't effect its 
entrance by means of that gun. 

Timothy Beaumont was still sitting by the 
telephone when I came downstairs, his pale 
face suffused, his sandy hair rumpled. Neither 
of us spoke as I swung through the door and 
down the drive to the gates out front. 



Forthwith, I paid my first visit to the town 
of Midvale. I still had fourteen dollars in my 
pocket, residue of five days work in the harvest 
fields the week before, and I found a little 
second-hand clothing store on the wrong side 
of the tracks, where I acquired a skimpy two- 
piece suit, and a cheap Panama hat, sweat- 
stained beyond redemption, but which would 
probably still get by at a distance, by moon- 
light. I was even able to pick up a small jar 
of luminous greasepaint at a novelty shop in 
the vicinity. 

After that, I spent the early e> ~ : ng at a 
nearby pool room. But as soon as it oegan to 
get reasonably dark, I headed back up the 
tracks toward the Beaumont place. 

Darkness was almost complete when I 
reached the steep narrow path winding up the 
face of the bluff there. With the aid of a 
mirror from my comb case, I dabbed some of 
the luminous paint on my face and hands, 
highlighting the hollows around my eyes and 
mouth and making my fingers look longer 
ttnd thinner than they were. Not too much — I 
didn't want to give the effect of a Hallowe'en 
masquerade. 

Then I climbed the path, using the same post 
I'd used before to get over the fence without 
touching it. On the far side, I moved through 
the trees for a final reconnaissance before 



giving the signal which would bring Tim 
Beaurrtont down here on the run, as though 
the devil himself were after him. 

I UCK was with me. The setting that night 
was perfect for my experiment. A thin 
new moon rode the sky, tossing a single star 
between her horns, and some change in the 
atmosphere presaging storm had wreathed the 
pool in wispy pockets of mist, which reached 
out to finger the boles of the nearest trees. The 
whole place was like some shadowy druid 
glen, with the rise and fall of cicada songs for 
chorus, and fireflies darting their yellow 
torches through the miasma. 

I paused a moment, selecting a hiding place, 
then returned to the fence and pummelled the 
top wire hard with my hat. I didn't want him 
to think it was just some stray branch dipping 
in the breeze this time. 

Thirty seconds of that, and I went back to 
the pool. I crouched immobile at its edge, hid 
my faintly glowing face and hands with my 
coat sleeves, and waited. 

It wasn't two minutes till I heard him com- 
ing across the meadow, sliding and blowing 
again. He came to a stop on my side of the 
knoll and swung the shotgun in a frenzied arc, 
hunting for something to shoot it at. 

I pushed my hands up out of the mist and 
started toward him, as though I'd come from 
the depths of the pool itself. ■ 

He screamed, and fired his first shot. His 
voice had a hoarse, animal timbre: 
"Go back! Go back, Jeremy!" 
I kept coming, not making a sound* with my 
hands hung out like hooks before me. 

He began to back away into the trees, stum- 
bling and firing as he went. When we were 
less than ten yards apart, the hammer clicked 
dead on the empty chamber, and a kind of 
gagging came from his chest. He flung the 
gun at my head and dived for the fence. 

He was up and over it like a monkey. And 
then one of his ankles touched that hot wire 
at the top, and he screamed and plunged head- 
long into space. 

I doubt if he even heard the outbound 
freight rolling through the railroad cut be- 
low. I hadn't counted on that, myself. But 
the result was inevitable, anyway. He could 
never have survived that thirty-foot drop to 
the tracks, or the hangman's noose that would 
have awaited him later, if he had by some 
miracle managed to pull through. 

As it was, he went rolling and tumbling 
down the bluff like a sawdust doll, and disap- 
peared beneath the wheels of the last gondola. 
The train crew probably never even knew 
about it. 

I stood there staring through the fence, 
while the red lights of the caboose disap- 
peared around the bend, and I could feel the 



^1 



THE POOL OF FEAR 



47 



recurrent tremors shaking me. I'd meant for 
him to confess — not to die. 

But after all, it amounted to the same thing 
in the last analysis. 

At last, I retraced my steps. 

AGAIN, I sat by Ellen's bed while she 
■*"*■ awakened. And again the frightened be- 
wilderment in her eyes gave way 

"Steve, oh, Steve! I'm so glad you're back. 
Does Tim know " 

I let mv fingers close about her hand. "Lie 
back and try to relax," I said gently. "There's 



shotgun. But when Jeremy met you at the 
top of the path, Tim didn't merely emerge 
from hiding and use the gun to marshal you 
both to the house. Instead, he used it to strike 
Jerry over the head, killing him. And later, 
with you in bed under sedatives and the 
guests gone home, he went back and weighted 
the body with rocks and dumped it into the al- 
most bottomless quarry hole. 

"And I — I've known all this, all along?" 

I nodded. "A little part of you knew it. But 

only a very small part, buried deep in the 

hidden substrata of your mind. And it was the 

something I have to tell you, Ellen. You ma>^ conflict between this subconscious knowledge, 



not understand, at first. But when you do, I 
think it'll clear up a lot of other things, too. 
Among them, this illness." 

I told her about Tim's death, then. "Don't 
you see, Baby? Actually, it was suicide. 
That's what we'll have to tell the police. He 
was really killed by his own conscience. If 
he hadn't murdered Jeremy and hidden his 
body in the pool, he wouldn't have had such a 
phobia about the place. He wouldn't have for- 
bidden vou to go there, or built that fence to 
keep others out. And he wouldn't have fallen 
for that phony apparition which rose from 
the mists to confront him there last night. 
Subconsciously, from the moment of the mur- 
der, he lived in mortal terror that some day 
the dead would rise to haunt him." 

"But how — how could you know?" 

"It was mostly a shot in the dark," I admit- 
ted. "But it hit the target. But I learned 
enough from you under hypnosis, to fill in the 
blanks. It was your description of the way 
Jeremy was dressed that night, that cued my 
own disguise. . . . From the moment you told 
him in a burst of sisterly confidence that you 
planned to marry Jeremy, he must have begun 
to plot Jeremy's death. Your father had left 
this place and the family interest in the mill 
in your name; and if you married, your hus- 
band would take over both. 

"He told you Uter that the mill was losing 
money ; that that's why he had to take you out 
of the sanatorium. But if you hadn't been iso- 
lated from the world so long, you'd have 
known that no mill has lost money during the 
past five years. He told you that he couldn't , 
get servants to come here, because of you. 
Actually, he wanted no servants: he had to 
keep you isolated. The same applies to that 
homecoming party he said he planned for you." 

"Actually, no invitations were sent. He 
knew you were too proud to try to get in touch 
with your former friends." 

Her eyes were wide and dark with shock. 
"But how — how could he kill Jeremy ?"„,_ 

"If you mean the mechanics of it, that"was 
simple. He talked you into holding the wed- 
ding here, and proposed that gag with the 



THE END 



and the secret hate it made you feel for Tiir, 
set against your conscious image of him as a 
loyal and devoted brother who deserved your 
warmest affection, that has caused all your 
trouble. . . . You see, darling, you're really 
made of very tough emotional fibre. Other- 
wise, that conflict would have torn you to 
pieces long ago. As it was, it found expression 
only in your dream activity. 

Her head moved rebelliously on the pillow. 
"But I couldn't forget a thing like Jeremy's 
murder ! Nothing could ever make me ! " 

"Yes," I said. "There is one thing. It lies 
in your reaction to a certain drug. There are 
some persons whom this drug, normally a sed- 
ative, does not put to sleep at once. Instead, 
they apparently remain conscious, even lucid to 
a degree. But the drug aflects their memory 
centers so that later, after it has worn off, 
they can't consciously remember a thing that 
happened while it was in effect. . . . Tim had 
noticed your reaction to it, earlier. Probably 
it was given you as a sedative when your fa- 
ther died. So he gave you a dose, in a drink 
or something, before you left the house to- 
gether that night. Later, your temporary am- 
nesia could be explained as the result of the 
traumatic shock brought about by your dis- 
appointment at Jeremy's failure to appear." 

Her eyes were alive now, bright with re- 
lief. She had pulled through unbroken. 

"Steve," she said softly. "Kiss me, Steve." 

I could feel the blood pounding through my 
temples, but I shook my head. 

I said shortly. "I'm still your doctor." 

"And what's to become of me, Doctor?" 

"If you're smart, you'll take a nice long 
trip and forget all this." 

"And you?" 

I looked away. "Oh, I — I suppose I'll go 
somewhere and try to re-establish a practice. 
You see, all this — well, damn it, it's sort of 
given me a reason to go on living now, too." 

She took my hand between hers, and her 
eyes were shining. "I'll do it, Steve!" she 
said. "I'll do just what you said- — on one con- 
ditidfi : that you make that trip you prescribed 
a honeymoon." 



THE WORM IN THE ROOT 







Suddenly a blast of flame 
blinded him. 



SANDY GRAHAM adeptly whipped up 
his breakfast of four scrambled eggs and 
toast, then hollered, "Uncle Deak," a 
couple times hopefully, though it was no use. 
Uncle Deak hadn't been home since Pa and 
Sandy returned from their trip, a week ago. 

Sandy frowned. He was worried, yet he 
shouldn't be really. According to pa, Uncle 
Deak went off one time twenty years ago for 
a day and stayed ten years. Sandy guessed 
that was back -.hen his uncle was fat and 
husky. 

Pa had already gone to the filling station. 
Sandy looked for the time but the old clock 
had stopped and Pa's watch, which he most 
always left at home, was lost somewhere. 

"Creeps," he growled. Uncle Deak not 
being back meant he'd have to dig the worms 
another day. He almost wished the fishermen 
around Lakewood would lay down their poles 
for good. 

Garbed in his checked shirt, blue jeans 
and Stetson hat that pa gave him on his 
seventeenth birthday, he meandered down to 
the tool shed. He removed the orders from 
the hook, got a lifting fork and an armful of 
paper cartons like those that chili comes in, 
and went to number six bed on the far end. 
48 







The worms there, unmolested for a time, 
should be fattest and besides, the earth was 
hoved up, loose, as if the bed had recently 
been worked over. 

Sandy looked off through the trees toward 
the lake. He could see the top of the mast 
on Mr. Townsend's yacht and hear the cries 
of the bathers. Sandy guessed it was nice to 
have plenty of money. 

He started digging, one forkful at a time 
and then removing the fat, wriggling worms 
from the pungent earth and placing them 
carefully in the cartons. Consulting his or- 
der*- which people called in to Pa at the fill- 
ing station, he counted the appropriate num- 
ber into each carton before dropping moss 
inside for the wriggling creatures to feed on. 
'Creeps," he cried— the deeper he went 
the fatter the worms became. He remained in 
that one spot till his fork hit something solid. 
At first he thought he'd hit the copper wire 
which served as a bottom for the bed and 
kept the worms from escaping, but then he 
leaned down, and it wasn't the bottom at all. 
"Golly!" He rammed the fork down again, 
pried up. _ And then he went cold all over. 

The object under his fork was a man's bare 
leg. Sandy turned white. He caught his 



an 



By KEN KESSLER 



breath before resolutely digging the earth 
away from the recumbent form. 

"Uncle Deak!" he cried. Already decom- 
position had blurred the thin features, but 
the shaggy grey head, the narrow eyes, the 
lobeless ears were familiar. There was a 
hole the size of a dime in his temple. 

Sandy dropped the fork and Jin for Black 
John Morton's house, a quarter rnile up the 
road, where there was a phone. Black John 
was sitting in the yard. "I found Uncle 
Deak's body in the worm bed!" he shouted. 
Black John stiffened, rising at once. Sandy 
dashed on into the house. 

Deesie Morton was washing dishes. She 
had on a print dress and her yellow hair, 
which just missed matching Sandy's, was 
done in a knot that didn't seem too sure of 
itself. "Lemme use the phone!" Sandy cried. 
Deesie almost dropped a dish. 
"Why, Sandy! What's the—?" 
But Sandy was cranking the phone. He 
asked the party line operator for the sheriff 
first, and then called pa. Pa hollered, "My 
God ! " and the receiver crashed down. 

"Who— killed him, Sandy?" Deesie burst 
out. 

"I don't know." And then he remembered 

how Uncle Deak looked. "And you stay 

here. It's no place for kids, anyway girls." 

"Stop calling me a child," Deesie snapped. 

Im sixteen. Some girls marry no older'n 

I am." 

Sandy didn't feel up to arguing with women, 
so he let her follow him. Black John was 
already on the scene. Black John was Deesie's 
pa, and as peculiar a man as Sandy ever 
saw. He was forever glum, and mean looking. 
He and Deesie had lived alone since her ma 
died. Black John was retired. He used to 
be in the real estate and insurance business 
in Lakewood. 

Then the sheriff arrived, and by the magic 
wrought by the party line operator an assem- 
blage of Lakewood citizenry got there almost 
as fast as Pa, who puffed up in the old jalopy. 

Cox Bann, the sheriff, nodded to Black 
John and gazed a long time at the body. 
"Guess that's what you'd call a man's sins 
catching up with him." Cox was round, 
stubby, and grey bearded but his eyes were 
wise and cool. 

Pa bristled. "Deak wasn't no model. But 



he was my brother." He gazed levelly at 
Cox. "The law'd ought to learn to hold its 
tongue." 

'THAT'S how pa was, Sandy thought— loyal 
and good. Pa was the finest man he knew 
anywhere. And he was touchy about Deak. 
He had a love for him that Sandy never un- 
derstood. He'd admit that Deak was wild, 
even at fifty, and he once said to Sandy that 
his uncle would end up bad yet. 

"When'd you last see him?" asked Bann, 
looking around at the two deputies and the 
somber little coroner wh^.had just arrived. 

"Well, er— two weeks ago," said pa. The 
sight of his brother's body upset him, Sandy 
guessed. "Me and Sandy went upstate for 
a week, visitin'. When we come back Deak 
was gone." 

By now twenty or thirty people had assem- 
bled, among them Claude Gray, a Lakewood 
attorney that Uncle Deak went to see once 
or twice. Sandy never knew what business 
his uncle had with Gray. 

Gray addressing nobody in particular said, 
"It might be of interest to note that Deak 
Graham left Harve quite a sum of money." 

Pa's eyes popped. "Deak . . . left me . . . 
money ? " 

"Approximately twenty thousand dollars," 
Gray said, folding his hands so that his mani- 
cure showed. "I was his lawyer." 

"Twenty thousand—!" Pa made a funny 
sound with his lips. "You must be off your 
nut. Deak never had twenty dollars." 

"What about his profits from the worm 
business?" Black John put in hoarsely. 

"He had more worms than business," pa 
snapped. This questioning was making him 
mad. "Deak come and went, I admit. Last 
time he rolled in broke, 'bout a year ago. 
He got_ the idea of selling fishing worms. 
Not ordinary worms, but 'lumbrious terrestris 
specie,' he called 'em. Fat worms anyway. 
So he drawed up blue prints for the beds and 
I let him use the land." After that long 
speech Pa shut up tight. 

Bann stepped across the concrete border 
around bed number five. "Come off it, Harve. 
Tellin' us you don't know nothing about Deak 
having that much money." 

"I didn't," pa snapped, reddening under 
the stare of the crowd. 



Young Sandy never knew, when he dug for fishing 

worms and turned up, instead, Uncle Deak's murdered 

body, that one good corpse deserves another 1 . 



49 



50 



KEN KESSLER 



Some of the rich folks from the lake club 
strode up, gawking like anybody. Among 
them was H. Phillip Townsend, owner of 
the yacht Marilynn which was named after 
his daughter. He wore white pants, blue 
coat, yachting cap. He nodded to the sheriff 
and pa, and looked very surprised when he 
saw the body. 

"I wondered what had happened to him," 
Mr. Townsend said. "He's been selling me 
bait and I need some now." 

The sheriff then asked both Mr. Townsend 
and Black John of they'd seen anything pecu- 
liar going on around the Graham's property 
lately. They both said no. "It looks to me," 
Bann said, "as if Deak was shot at night, 
buried under cover of darkness here in the 
worm bed — the idea being the worms would 
consume the body. By using this bed on the 
far end, the killer figured the body wouldn't 
be disturbed." 

He drew a breath. "That has a meanin'. 
The killer knew this bed wasn't used much." 
Bann looked at Sandy. "Son, I. see you in 
town sometimes at night. Ain't it possible 
things could happen here that you wouldn't 
know about? Say, like when you're in a 
movie ? " 

Sandy felt sick, trapped. He felt himself 
turn white. Then he looked at pa. "Yes-sir. 
But if you saying that pa might have done 
it—" 

"I ain't— yet," Bann cut him off. Then, 
as if he was thinking to himself, he said, 
"Deak might' ve got the money on one of 
his trips. He was mysterious. But where 
he got it don't matter right now. The main 
thing is finding the gun." 

The deputies scattered out, looking in the 
weeds in the back lot, and Mr. Townsend 
kicked around in the loose dirt, turning up 
fat worms. The coroner and another man 
loaded Uncle Deak into a basket and took 
him off. Some of the crowd started drifting 
away. Deesie whispered "I'm sorry, Sandy. 
But you know they can't do anything with 
your pa." 

And just then Mr. Townsend exclaimed, 
"Look here!" 

Everybody regarded the end of Mr. Town- 
send's toe. An object glinted against the 
brown earth. 

"My watch!" pa exploded. "It's been 
missing for two weeks ! " 

Bann picked it up by the chain. Sandy 
didn't move. Nobody did. It was like elec- 
tricity in the air. Then Bann said, "Not 
much arguing against this, Harve." 

Pa shrugged as if what had happened had 
been building up right along. Before he left 
he came over to Sandy. "Keep things going 
at the house. Don't open up the station. And 
Sandy — " he put his big hand on Sandy's 



shoulder — "don't go nosin' into this. It's 
murdeff" Leave the nosin' to the sherif." 

Sandy watched them drive off in the sher- 
iff's car. Cox Bann looked pleased, and pa 
waved to Sandy from down the road. Sandy 
would've cried then except Deesie came over 
and put her hand in his. 

"I want to help you, Sandy." 

"Like doing what?" 

"Like cooking for you, maybe." 
•Sandy squeezed her hand. He'd never 
squeezed a girl's hand before, not just like 
that anyway. "No, Deesie." He strolled into 
the house, Deesie following. "You better go 
now. I got thinking to do." 

But Deesie didn't go. She accompanied him 
into Uncle Deak's room. On the wall was a 
blue print of the worm beds, showing the loca- 
tion and size of each bed. "I helped him draw 
the map," Deesie said, because I took drawing 
in school, but I never saw that on there." 

"What? On where?" 

"That X. See that X on number four bed." 
Sandy looked, but he paid slight attention. 
Uncle Deak was always doing mysterious 
things, none of which ever meant much. 

"You're still imagining pirates and buried 
treasure," he said. "Like when we used to 
play down at the lake." 

"You liked me better then, didn't you, 
Sandy?" 

Sandy didn't answer. A big voice outside 
the window shouted, "Deesie, come out of 
there. You got no business in that house." 
It was Black John. 

Deesie said, "Yes, Dad," and whispered to 
Sandy, "Don't mind dad none. He don't like 
anybody." She tiptoed out, so as not to intrude 
on Sandy's thinking. 

CANDY crossed through the living room, 
Q neat and tidy, as pa kept it since Sandy's 
mother died, and then he went outside. He 
decided not to bother with filling any worm 
orders today, he didn't feel up to it. Instead 
he went on down into the woods. He could 
think straighter there. He found an old limb 
that was down and straddled it. Off by the 
lake he heard music and a girl's laughter. 

Nothing made sense, or added up. Where 
had Uncle ^'ak got twenty thousand dollars? 
But, since he had it, why didn't pa know? 
Or did he? Sandy felt disloyal over that 
question. And if pa lost his watch in the 
worm bed, wouldn't he remember about where 
he'd been and look for it there? 

At first he hated Cox Bann for arresting 
pa but he repented that now. He had to look 
at it as the sheriff did. There was all the 
evidence, the motive and all. And to Bann, pa 
was just another man, really. Sandy didn't 
know much about murderers except what he'd 
read. It gave him chills thinking that some- 



THE WORM EST THE ROOT 



51 



body — somebody he knew probably — had 
killed Uncle Deak. 

Noon came and Sandy fixed himself some 
corn flakes but he didn't feel like eating much. 
The afternoon was wearing away when he 
started up the flivver and drove into Lake- 
wood. First he got pa some cigars and then 
cut around to the filling station that pa'd run 
for ten years to see that it was leaked up tight 
Afterwards he went to the jail. J ; 

Cox Bann was in the front. Sandy con- 
fronted him, eyes bright. "I've been thinking," 
he said, "the coroner didn't say how long 
Uncle Deak d been dead. Figure that out and 
you'll find pa was visiting." 

Cox Bann chuckled. "It wasn't mentioned 
because he can't tell about a decomposing 
body. Might' ve been six days, maybe eight." 
Sandy slumped. He trudged on back to pa's 
cell. Pa was sitting on the edge of the bare 
cot, his chin down, his face sort of gray. He 
made himself smile when Sandy handed over 
the cigars. 

Sandy said, "I've been going through Uncle 
Deak's room — " 

Pa got purple in the face. "I ain't whipped 
you in ten years but God Almighty, son, I'll 
skin you if you tangle up in this." He ob- 
served the shadows on Sandy's face. "Set," 
he said softly, pointing to the cot. 

"I don't want you hurt, son," he began. 
"Just between us. Uncle Deak was mixed up 
with bad company. I'm purty sure. And 
they're killers, Sandy. They killed once, would 
agin. See?" 

"But you're locked up," Sandy protested. 
"And Cox Bann will build a tight case." 

"No matter! You stay out of it." He 
paused. "I reckon why Deak come back last 
time was because somethin' was getting too 
hot for him, or he was running away from 
somebody. " 

Sandy leaned over. "He was my uncle. 
You're my pa. You keep forgetting I'm grown 
now. I got a right to know such things." 

This jolted pa, as if he hadn't thought about 
it before. At length his eyes softened. "Mebbe 
you're right, son." He took a breath. "Well, 
when Deak come back I was in his room one 
day. I run onto a copy of a police record 
hidden in his grip. Some man named Harry 
Tolbert was wanted for killing a wealthy oil- 
man near San Francisco. He got away, ac- 
cording to the record, and after the wife col- 
lected her share of the estate she disappeared 
too. The police are looking for both parties." 
Pa gazed off. "You know who I think 
Harry Tolbert was?" 

Sandy shook his head. He'd never seen pa 
so solemn. 

"Uncle Deak, or one of his cronies, -ander 
a changed name. Especially since this money 
turns up." 



"He might have . . . killed the man, then 
the woman?" 

"I don't know what to think." He got up. 
"Son, I want you to promise me you'll not — " 
At that moment Claude Gray, treading so 
lightly that neither heard him coming, ap- 
peared in front of the cell. 

"I brought a copy of the will, thought you'd 
like to see it," Gray said. Sandy slipped out 
before pa could make him promise anything. 

Darkness had settled down when Sandy got 
home. He saw a light on in Deesie's room. 
The rest of the Morton house was dark. Sandy 
wondered where Black John was. Deesie 
wouldn't be afraid alone however. When she 
and Sandy used to play pirates, Deesie'd make 
a canoe landii?; — only it was a frigate to them 
— and come clear through the woods at night. 
A big affair was going on at the lake. Sandy 
saw a log burning- and heard music. He kept 
thinking of pa — maybe in the electric chair, 
and to banish the thought he strolled down to 
the water. The rich folks were dancing on the 
pier, sleek gowned women and men in dinner 
clothes. 

H. Phillip Townsend was on the rim of the 
group, leaning against a tree. He was wearing 
a white coat, dark pants, and white gloves. 
Sandy tried to imagine what pa or Black John 
would look like wearing fancy gloves. 

Townsend jumped when Sandy went over. 
"You startled me," he said. "I'm sorry about 
your uncle, and the unfortunate circumstances 
that brought on your father's arrest." 

"It wasn't your fault, really," Sandy said, 
digging his toe in the soft earth. 

"Murder is serious. If your father isn't 
guilty, he'll be exonerated at a fair trial. And 
if he did—" 

"Don't say that," Sandy burst out. "No 
matter what happens, pa didn't do it." 

The music ended and the dancers strolled off 
the pier. Townsend's eyes followed them. "I'll 
miss your unce. Bought bait from him, you 
know. Talked a lot about his worms being tne 
best in the country." He chuckled. "Which 
I doubted. His worms were like himself, fat 
and lazy." 

A SLIM girl about Sandy's age, in a dress 
*r cut lower than Sandy had ever seen be- 
fore, joined them. "My daughter, Marilynn," 
Mr. Townsend said, and with a wink at Sandy, 
drifted away. 

"I've heard about you," Marilynn said. Her 
dark hair was upswept and her lips deeply 
crimson. "You're the worms man's nephew." 

Uncomfortably, Sandy said, "Yes'm." 

"Well, I hate your old worms. I hate it 
here." The firelight cast shadows on her 
checks 

"Your ma and pa like it," Sandy reminded 
her. 



52 



KEN KESSLER 



"Mother doesn't. She came because Phil 
thinks there's no place else to fish. As if there 
isn't the whole Atlantic coast — " her eyes 
misted — "places with swanky club houses, and 
Naval officers. ..." 

"I think you're spoiled," Sandy said simply. 

She stepped closer to him. Her lips parted 
in a way Deesie's never did. "I'm sorry you 
feel that way. I could like you." 

Sandy flushed. "I — I got to go," he stam- 
mered. "G-good night." He was twenty feet 
away when he heard her giggle. 

But Sandy was very thoughtful as he 
strolled back to the house. It startled him 
when he saw a shadow ahead. He slipped be- 
hind some tall brambles, waiting breathlessly. 
Finally the shadow moved on, and he recog- 
nized Black John. He watched as the old man 
threaded toward his house. 

When finally he flung himself across the bed, 
fully dressed except for his shoes, it was late. 
But he couldn't sleep. All the factors were 
present, he realized vaguely, but he couldn't 
put them together somehow. And then he got 
to thinking about pa in jail, alone. Then a 
vision of Uncle Deak's body returned and 
Sandy shivered. 

It scared him when he heard a scraping 
sound in the vicinity of Unlle Deak's room. 
He jerked upright. The sound came again, 
eerily. He'd never thought much about ghosts, 
but now he wasn't so sure. Covered with net- 
tles, he eased off the bed and bare-footed, pad- 
ded through the living room toward the sound. 

He was almost there when he bumped a 
stool. He leaped back, the unexpected fright- 
ening him. It took a lot of nerve but he went 
on and flung the door open, snapping on the 
lights. 

The room was silent but one window was 
up, mute evidence that somebody, not a ghost, 
had been there. The curtains stirred weirdly 
from the outside breeze. 

Sandy brushed a hand through his yellow 
hair, fighting down an impulse to clear out. 
Then his eye rested on the blue print on the 
wall, on the X on number four bed that Deesie 
had pointed out. Now that things were tak- 
ing shape in his mind, the X came to mean 
something. Just what, Sandy wasn't sure, but 
he was having an idea. 

Bolstering his nerve, he went for a flash 
light and then slipped out into the night. He 
didn't turn on the light however. He crawled 
against the ground to the tool shed, where he 
groped for a spade. Still crawling, dragging 
the implement, he worked his way to number 
four bed. 

It was a moonless night but the sky was 
clear. The mounded earth where Uncle Deak's 
body had been excavated was ominously near 
him. Sandy lay on his belly and dug. He 
could only guess at the exact location of the 



X on the map, but it looked about two feet out 
from the northeast corner. The spade crunched 
against the damp earth. Worms crawled 
against Sandy's bare feet — cold, slimey crea- 
tures. He had the feeling that somebody was 
watching him. His spine tingled. 

He dug down about eighteen inches before 
the spade touched metal. The screech of it 
chilled him. Exploring with his fingers, he 
touched the top of a box. .He used his fingers 
as a fork and dug the earth away. The box 
was metal, the kind a mechanic uses for carry- 
ing tools. He lifted it out. The lid was sealed 
with wax to keep out moisture. 

Deserting the spade, Sandy crawled back to 
the tool shed with the box in tow. The feel- 
ing that unseen eyes were following him per- 
sisted. He gained the shed, squatted in front 
of the door and, reaching a screwdriver off 
the rack inside, pried away the wax. The lid 
open, he removed an oilskin cloth which was 
wrapped around a heavy object. Beneath the 
oilskin was a chamois. Sandy's eyes popped. 

Uncovered, the object was a gleaming .38 
revolver ! Sandy rewrapped it carefully and 
returned it to the box. 

Instantly a hign, tortured scream penetrated 
the stillness. Deesie's voice ! Sandy flung 
himself down. A blast of flame blinded him. 
Sandy lay there, listening, not breathing. 
Thudding footfalls retreated across the yard. 
That would be Deesie, but where was his as- 
sailant ? 

Sandy's heart pounded. Indian-style, he 
crawled on his belly around the shack. Sud- 
denly he could see the shadow of a figure, 
stealthily advancing toward the shed. It struck 
Sandy that the mail figured he'd hit him. 
Sandy wished he dared use the .38, but that 
was out. The gun meant something that han- 
dling might obliterate. He edged farther, drag- 
ging in the dirt. 
. The shadow came nearer but still Sandy 
couldn't see who it was, although he was 
pretty sure he knew. Moreover, he knew why 
it was who it was — all useless information, if 
he didn't live to use it to free pa. And the 
man was desperate or else he'd have run when 
Deesie screamed. 

"I reckon he knows Deesie wasn't close 
enough to see him good," Sandy thought 
grimly. Which meant the killer was free to 
finish the job. C andy figured now he'd have 
done better to hang onto the revolver, evi- 
dence or not. 

TTHE figure neared the shed doo.\ Sandy 
A considered rising, running, but even in the 
darkness it was a big gamble if the man gave 
pursuit. So he waited, a plan forming in his j 
mind. When the figure stooped over the metal ; 
box, Sandy leaped up. He charged the shed : 
door. 







THE WORM IN THE ROOT 



53 



The man heard him, straightened abruptly. 
"Why, you little—" 

Driving hard, Sandy hit the door before the 
man could fire. Anger tfiuMaced fear. He 
heard a groan. The figure hurtled into the 
shed. Sandy slammed the door, swiftly insert- 
ing the lock in the hasp. There was wild 
cursing within. 

"Frame pa, will ya?" Sandy cried triumph- 
antly. Just then a shot ripped through the 
door. Sandy spun, falling backwards. A tin- 
gling besieged his shoulder. He touched his 
flesh. Blood on his hand, warm, sticky. He 
was fighting back nausea when another shot 
from within the shed blasted loose the hasp... 
The door was swinging outward as Sandy, 
losing his fight, swam away on the wide, 
soaring wings of the metal box, just outside 
the door. . . . 

Sheriff Bann, Deesie, Black John and H. 
Phillip Townsend were in the room. It was 
Sandy's bedroom and he was on the bed. Dr. 
Ormsby, from Lakewood, was inserting a 
needle in Sandy's arm. 

Sandy looked up at the sheriff. "I — I was 
just going to call you — " he blinked, choking 
— "No, he was escaping out the door!" 

"Deesie called me," said the sheriff. "And 
he didn't escape. Black John had a change of 
heart. He finally did somebody a good turn." 

"Black John did?" 

"It was Deesie's doin's," said Black John 
grudgingly. 

Deesie touched the bed. "He'd been out 
walking down by the lake. I couldn't sleep 
and I started over this way when I saw you 
and the man drawing the gun. I ran for dad, 
and he stopped him." She viewed her father 
with pride. "Now he's going to stop being so 
grouchy and selfish. He promised me just 
now." 

Black John surveyed his daughter and al- 
most smiled. 

. "Townsend's 'cuffed, Sandy," said Bann. 
"You done a nice piece of work and we're 
proud of you." 

Sandy raised up. Townsend was scowling, 
his smooth face a mask. "He's not Town- 
send," said Sandy knowingly. "He's Harry, 
Tolbert." 

"Harry Tolbert?" 

Sandy told him about the police record pa 
read. "Pa won't like me telling about Uncle 
Deak but, creeps, I think he was blackmail- 
ing Towns — Tolbert. That's where he got the 
twenty thousand. Uncle Deak had the murder 
gun, all wrapped up so the fingerprints 
wouldn't rub off." He related the episode of 
finding the gun. "And I'll bet a bullet from 
it will match the one that killed the rich oil 
man. I don't know how Uncle Deak got it, 



but Mr. Townsend'll tell you. . . . ask him." 

But Mr. Townsend wasn't talking. "We'll 
get it later," Bann said confidentially. "You 
figure he came here, pretending to fish, in 
order to kill Deak. I guess his wife is the San 
Francisco woman." 

"And Marilynn is her daughter, but not 
Townsend's. She called him Phil, not 'pa' or 
'dad'." 

"I see," Bann smiled. "Funny, come to 
think of it, how he uncovered your pa's watch 
when none of the rest of us saw it." 

"That's what started me thinking. A win- 
dow was loose in Uncle Deak's room. While 
we were all away he climbed in, stole the 
watch, planning to use it to frame pa. When 
pa and I went visiting he killed Uncle Deak, 
thinking he would locate the gun later. But 
he couldn't find it. He was desperate all 
right j tonight, when he thought I was asleep, 
he came back to search some more." He felt 
weak again. 

"I connected them up wheri Mr. Townsend 
called Uncle Deak 'fat and lazy' at the land- 
ing tonight. Uncle used to be fat when I 
was a kid, but he got thin. Tonwsend had 
past and present mixed up. Another thing, 
he was wearing gloves. I reckon his hands 
were blistered from digging Uncle Deak's 
grave." 

Townsend seized that moment to plunge to- 
ward the window. Black John, moving faster 
than Sandy had ever seen him, knocked the 
handcuffed man down. The sheriff grabbed 
him. 

Dr. Ormsby said, "Rest now, Sandy. You're 
overdoing it." 

Sandy did feel dopey. He asked for pa. 
"I've sent a deputy for him," Bann said. A 
moment later they drove up. 

Pa came in, big and powerful looking, his 
head high. Then he was holding Sandy in 
his arms, like when he was a kid and a storm 
scared him. "Your uncle was a strange man, 
staying on here when he was rich. In his 
queer way, maybe he thought he was helping 
us, making that will and all. The money being 
unclean didn't bother him none. Guess though 
he'd have gone off some day again like he did 
before." 

"The money is yours now, Pa," Sandy said 
wonderingly. 

"The law'll probably take it. Anyway, it's 
not for us." He pondered. "I been thinkin', 
mebbe blood's thicker than water, but wrong's 
wrong. " 

The room blurred. Sandy was sinking away 
when he felt a drop of moisture on his face. 
It was out of pa's eyes. "My — son — " That's 
all he could say right then. Sandy fell asleep 
with pa holding him and Deesie's face swim- 
ming over the bed. 



THE WHITE. SQUARE 



By EVERETT M. WEBBER 



IT WAS a raw, cloudy day — coming dark, 
and Dirk expected to find his uncle cook- 
ing supper, or eating it. But the little 
windows of the house showed no light as he 
stopped the buckboard. Then Dirk saw his 
Uncle Mac down below the corral working on 
the earthen dam of his pond. He had evidently 
heard the buckboard for he straightened slow- 
ly, one hand at the small of his back, the other 
still holding the shovel. 

Dirk's heart beat a little fast with a mixture 
of apprehension, excitement and something a 
little like fear. There was also a tinge of 
shame mingled with his feeling at being here 
begging again. But none of that must show. 

He waved at the old man, clambered down 
and swiftly unhooked the horse. Easing the 
collar a bit and roughing the wet hair under 
it, he tied the animal to the porch post. And 
then, seeing that his uncle wasn't coming up 
to greet him, he walked down toward the pond, 
careful to close the gates behind him. Bluffly, 
above the croaking of frogs and the blatting 
of sheep, he exclaimed, "Hello, there, Uncle 
Mac ! You look younger every time I see 
you ! " 

And, as he clambered the grassed-over dam 
and shook hands with the old man, he saw 
that his uncle knew he was here again for 
money. 

Sweating, old Mac said, "Well, I don't feel 
any younger, lad. . . . Guess I've done about 
enough here. Just fixing the dam a little 
against the rain. We'll go to the house. Throw 
your horse in the corral and feed 'im an' we'll 
eat supper. You're in money trouble again?" 

The words graveled Dirk, but they gave him 
a sort of relief, too, at having the reason for 
his trip brought up. "Well, not exactly trou- 
ble," he said, "but I am needing another 
loan. " 

Old Mac grunted dourly, squinting at the 
heavens as the wind became suddenly dank. 
And then, before they reached the house, a 
fine drizzle set in. 

"You'll bear in mind," he stated as Dirk 
presently untied the horse to lead him to the 
corral, "you haven't paid the other four loans. 
And like I've told you over and over, I can't 
let you have any more till I'm paid. But 
you're welcome to stay the night, or longer." 
* * * 

It was only gradually, after supper, that 
Dirk brought the matter up again. It was 
sprinkling rather steadily, now, and as old 
54 



Mac opened the door to let the extra heat from 
the fire go outside, the buckboard glistened 
_in the lamp light, and the bare earth of the 
yard shined wetly. A night hawk zipped past 
the door and away. 

"The fact is," Dirk said as casually as he 
could, "I've had tough luck at cards, and I 
promised to pay up in a hurry. Five hundred 
would hold them off." 

Old Mac turned from the doorway and 
stared at Dirk who still sat at the table, and 
Dirk saw that his little eyes were troubled 
as he shook his grizzling head. 

Dirk swallowed the black anger that rose 
within him, and then the, entire story was tum- 
bling from his lips and he couldn't hold it 
back : How he had had to beg like a dog to get 
a few days' grace to drive the sixty miles over 
here, across wild prairie, to try to raise a little 
cash. How, if he didn't get it, he wouldn't 
dare go back for fear of his very life, and how 
the men he owed would hog up his land, the 
well he had dug, and the few cows he still 
had left. 

But still his uncle shook his head. "I can't 
do it, Dirk. I'm an old man. I can't work 
forever. " 

"You could live with me. You could sell 
out and get away from this God-forsaken 
place. " 

"And come to a place where someone else 
is owner, a place you'll gamble away any day ? 
And this isn't so God-forsaken. It's only four 
miles from town. I've got friends. It's not 
that I want to hurt your feelings, nor — " 

"But like you say," Dirk reasoned des- 
perately, "all you've got will be mine some 
daV' 

"I couldn't live in another man's house, and 
that's what'll happen if I keep giving — " 

With a sudden angry oath, Dirk came out 
of his chair, jerking at the revolver in the 
waistband under his coat. The old man stood 
paralyzed a second, there by the door, and in 
that second Dirk was upon him, firing almost 
in his face. Old Mac tottered to a chair, col- 
lapsed across the back of it, and then sprawled 
to the floor with it half upon him. He didn't 
move after that, but a few dops of blood 
trickled down onto th *wide, clean boards. 

Dirk stood there, staring down at him. his 

heart thundering furiously. And then, half 

aloud, he panted, "The pennypinching old 

varmint — it serves him right." 

He put the gun back into his waistband and 



... ^*PW>i- 




Dirk came out of his chair, jerk- 
ing at the revolver in the waist- 
band under his coat. 



Frugal Uncle Mac's idea was never to send good money after 
bad, and so be swore he'd rather be dead before he lent 
Dirk another cent. . . . Which was exactly Dirk's idea, too! 



stood listening, lest there might have been 
someone who heard, or saw, the shooting. 
When there seemed to be no one, he quickly 
;losed the door. The shades were already 
Irawn. At the fireplace, he worked out the 
■ight hand corner stone of the hearth and 
:hrust his hand into the hole. 

A SHORT, sharp cry burst from his lips. It 
rv was empty. Frantically he leaned low to 
>eer into it, and then he brought up a slip of 
laper. The red printing at the top said, "Bank 
if Boiling Springs." And under that: "De- 
iosit Receipt." Dirk stared with blurring eyes 
t the firm, pale writing under that: "Silver, 
670. Currency, $15,665. Gold, $1,445." It 
dded up to $17,780. 

Dirk licked his dry lips. The slip was dated 
. scant two weeks before. He put it back into 
he hole and replaced the stone and rose. — 

"The dirty old varmint!" he growled. His 
ieart was slowing now, and he forced him- 



self to steadiness as he rose. "Banking it— 
now I can't touch a dime." The anger some- 
how restored him. 

But it was his. He was old Mac's only kin. 
It was all his. And this little ranch, which he 
could sell for good cash. He wouldn't go back 
home. Let them take his few cattle and his 
shack. Why, with cash like this, what couldn't 
he do! He would go to some city — maybe 
Denver or San Francisco. Liquor— Women 
m fine clothes — new cars — good horses. . . i 
Set himself up in a nice saloon in a good part 
of town. Buy railroad stock and run his 
money up . . . 

His enthusiasm suddenly cooled. First, he 
must get the money. And he must avoid get- 
ting himself into trouble for what he had done. 
Maybe it would be best to get on back home 
and wait to be advised that old Mac had tossed 
in his chips. On the other hand, it was known 
there that he had come here — and, besides, 
that infernal buckboard would leave tracks 

55 



56 



EVERETT M. WEBBER 



clear across the country the way it was 
sprinkling. 

Dirk began sweating as he stood in the 
middle of the floor, racking his brains for a 
notion of what to do. First off, he guessed he 
should get rid of the gun. And after that, 
drive to town and report that he had come to 
see his Uncle Mac, and found him murdered. 
Maybe they would suspect him, but what could 
they prove ? Nothing. All they could do, after 
the funeral, was to hand him the money. 

He reached for his dusty old hat and jumper 
and put them on. The drilled well, six inches 
in diameter and two hundred feet deep, would 
be a fine place for the pistol, and in the pitch 
blackness of the yard Dirk found the little well 
shed. He raised the cover and dropped the 
gun in and heard it scrape and bang the casing 
several times before it struck the water. 

The rain was coming harder, now, already 
soaking him through at knee and shoulder as 
he headed for the corral. Stooping low, he 
could faintly see his hammerheaded old horse 
against the skyline. His eyes were getting 
used to the dark. He caught the animal by the 
mane and led him up by the barn and brought 
the harness out and threw it on. The leather 
was wet and slick as he fastened the buckles. 
It was as he reached under for the belly 
band that he heard the pound of hoofs and 
then the rattle of a buggy, and for an instant 
he leaned there, paralyzed. Whoever it was 
would be coming here, for no one else lived 
down this way. Suddenly he grabbed the 
bellyband and buckled it and caught the bit 
ring. Let them come. Give him three more 
minutes, and let them come — 

. He led the horse out of the corral and flung 
himself upon its back and rode him swiftly 
to the yard and slid down. In a second, he had 
backed him into the shafts and was fastening 
them. He hooked a tug, then, with the sound 
of the horse and buggy coming closer, and 
ran around to hook the other, and as he undid 
the lines from the hame he could see the mov- 
ing blackness of the rig coming at him. Swift- 
ly he clambered to the seat. 

The rig pulled up. A man said, "Hello, 
there. That ain't you, is it, Mac?" 

Dirk knew the voice. Old man Vanderwet. 
Then some other man said, "Mac?" 

Dirk got a good grip on his voice. "It's 
me," he said. "Dirk Callen. Uncle— Uncle 
Mac — has been killed — " 

Vanderwet exclaimed, "I told you! I told 
you something was wrong ! " And as the two 
men piled out of the rig, he added, "Every 
Friday night for twenty years we've played 
checkers, and when he didn't show up tonight 
— I — I knew something must be wrong, so I 
brought the doctor — " 

Startled, Dirk kept quiet as he stepped from 
hub to porch. He had forgotten it was Friday. 



Maybe, in the excitement of their talk, hi 
uncle had forgotten it, too. 

The rain beat down with sudden fury as h 
shoved the door open and let the yellow ligl 
flood out. That was fine. It would smoot 
out the tracks he had made, getting the hors 
up here from the barn. He led the way i 
and stood silently as Vanderwet moved pon 
derously behind him. Vanderwet looked at th 
body for a long time, face shaken and pale an 
his grey mustaches trembling a little now an 
then. The doctor, a little man in baggy clothe 
whom Dirk did not know, knelt by old Ma 
and took his wrist. 

And, in surprise, he exclaimed, "Why, he' 
only just been shot 1" 

Dirk tensed. "He— he's dead, isn't he?" 

"There's no doubt of it." 

"I heard the shot," Dirk explained. "'. 
drove up just before you got here. I wasn' 
quite to the gate when I thought I heard ; 
gun, and when I came inside, this is what 1 
saw." 

The doctor said, "Somebody evidently at( 
supper with Mac." 

"They must have taken out the back way,' 
Dirk declared, "when they heard me." 

"But why?" Vanderwet exclaimed. "Whj 
would anybody — " 

TTE FIXED a long, searching look on Dirk, 
*-■*• his little grey eyes peering out above 
bustles of grey flesh, his brows glistening a 
little with drops of mist. Dirk forced himself 
to keep a steady countenance. 

"You weren't by any chance the one who 
ate here?" the old man asked, and his look 
moved to Dirk's shirt front and back up to his 
eyes. 

In spite of himself, Dirk glanced down and 
saw the streak of egg yoke down his belly. 
He felt sweat break upon his body. "I ... I 
didn't mean to mention it," he said, "but — 
well, I was starved when I came in. Uncle 
Mac was dead. Past help. They had left a 
little stuff, he and whoever ate with him, and, 
being hungry, I bolted it down, and started for 
you." 

Vanderwet nodded. "Then you — you must 
have got here, say, ten minutes ago? Fifteen, 
maybe?" 

"Maybe fifteen." 

Vanderwet said, "How long has Mac been 
dead, Doc?" 

The doctor shrugged. "Who can say? Five 
minutes — ten minutes — maybe a quarter of an 
hour. Not longer." 

"I told you I heard the shot!" Dirk ex- 
claimed. With an effort he toned his voice 
down. "I heard it." 

Vanderwet sighed heavily and picked up 
the lamp. "I'll hold the light for you to turn 
around, Doc. Have John and them bring out 



THE WHITE SQUARE 



5* 



the very best coffin — that all right, Dirk?" 

"Sure." Dirk was getting a little dizzy with 
relief. "Sure. The best." 

"We'll lay him out an' shave him while 
you're gone," Vanderwet added. He led the 
way onto the porch and stood there a second 
and then he whirled on Dirk, drawing a gun 
from his armpit. He cocked it, holding it un- 
waveringly on Dirk's middle. 

"I would enjoy shooting you," he said, as 
Dirk backed toward the table in the room. "I 
hope you move one more step." He came in 
with the lamp, squinting his left eye against 
it. "Find his pistol, Doc, and tie his hands 
behind him . . . and don't get between me 
and him." 

Dirk tried to speak as the doctor moved 
behind him and felt over his body for a gun, 
but no words would come. He calculated his 
chances for a break. They were nil. Then it 
came to him that he must brazen it out. Old 
Vanderwet was merely suspicious and trying 
to stampede him into talking. 

"All right. Find my gun," he said. "Since 
I never owned one of the things, I'd like to 
see it" 

The doctor's hands moved quickly and ex- 
pertly over him a second time, and finally the 
man grunted, "Well, there's no gun, that's 
sure." 

"Tie him!" Vanderwet exclaimed. "Out of 
his own mouth, gun or not, he stands con- 
victed. There's a rawhide lace on the nail be- 
hind you. Doc. Put your hands behind you, 
Callan." 

Dirk obeyed before the cold, hungry mouth 
of the pistol. His sweat had dried. "But — you 



see I have no gun — " he croaked, his mouth 
growing dry. 

"I'll see something else before snow flies. 
A hanging." 

Dirk felt the rawhide bite into his wrists, 
and the doctor's warm breath blowing upon 
his hands. 

Then Vanderwet backed onto the porch 
again, the lamp throwing heavy angles of 
shadow into the room. "Come out!" he or- 
dered. "Doc, pick up that poker and if he 
tries anything, brain him." 

Something in the man's manner, in his 
voice, struck an icier terror into Dirk than he 
had ever felt before. His knees wobbled as 
he moved out onto the porch, and it was hard 
for him to breathe. But he would think of 
something yet. He would admit nothing to 
them. 

"You've been here fifteen minutes, you say, 
and it's been raining upwards of an hour. The 
ground is muddy, the road full of puddles." 
Vanderwet took a deep breath, pointing. "And 
yet—" 

At first, Dirk thought he was pointing at 
the buckboard, and he stared at it, dripping 
and shining, but he could see nothing wrong. 
And the horse, standing dejectedly, looked all 
right. 

"Look under it," Vanderwet grunted, and 
the doctor gave a sudden cry of understand- 
ing. "Take a look under the buckboard, 
Callan." 

Dirk looked. The ground there hadn't been 
rained on. It was dry and white. A white 
square of it, in the lamp light, the size of a 
gallows floor. 



"JUST A NICE FRIENDLY KILL" 

Marcia Rodman was a pin-up queen way back in father's 
day, but Cash Wale still found her interesting, especially 
when she offered the pint-size private peep a tidy fee just to 
listen to her proposition. But when he heard it, it was too 
much even for tough-guy Wale: five grand for a bump, and 
who do you think was the intended victim? None other 
than Marcia herself. "Come on, be a sport, Cash," pleaded 
the Gay Nineties torch-singer. "No hard feelings — just a 
nice friendly kill." Cash told her his rod was for hire — not 
the slugs. But when the old dame got knocked off that 
night, the cops were a bit skeptical of Cash's story — and it 
took three more kills to make it stick! Read PETER 
PAIGE'S latest Cash Wale murder-go-round— Guilt-Edged 
Frame. 




Plus: Death for a Chaser, an exciting Counsellor 
Mort novelette by JULIUS LONG; a gripping tale 
of murder and madness — Lend Me a Murder, by 
H. H. STINSON; a new and hilarious Doc Pierce 
story by RICHARD DERMODY; another Mike Don- 
Ian yarn by JOHN WHITING; and an unusual short 
detective stoiy by JOHN H. KNOX. It's a feast of 
fiction for crime-story connoisseurs— in the big 
August issue of DIME DETECTIVE. On sale now! 







By 
WILLIAM 
HELLMAN 



j Her clutching fingers- clawed 
at her mouth and face in a 
gripping spasm of pain and 
terror. 






Zi6<? ^// Kiff/ifjr, £/V£ /oo£ ^r/<& in his work, but for a brush he used a 

.25 automatic, and for a model, he used the woman whose unspoken 

words would damn him to the chair. 



RICK HAINES was a master craftsman. 
He admitted it. He also admitted to the 
cleverest brain in the profession; the 
police hadn't a thing on him because he always 
planned his jobs well and his plans always 
worked because they were simple and direct. 
As now — 

He came briskly down the hall, a tall, well- 
built man, impeccably dressed, carrying a bat- 
tered brief case. He fore-knew exactly what 
to do and what to expect when at noon he 
walked into the fourth-floor office of Acme 
Finance, and closed the door behind him. The 
lone occupant, a little gray-haired man, rose 
58 



hastily and came toward him, said: "I'm 
sorry sir, but we — " 

Rick said not a word. He pushed the little 
.25 deep under the man's breastbone, fed him 
two efficient little pills with no more of a re- 
port than the pop of bubble-gum, and rolled 
the body out of sight behind a desk. Then he 
pulled off the big, black-lensed glasses that 
were an effective disguise for his small, shrewd 
eyes, laid his gray fedora on top of them on 
the desk and went to the unlocked safe where 
he swiftly and efficiently transferred its more 
cheering assets to the briefcase. He turned to 
pick up his hat and glasses and walk out the 



^^^mmrtm^^ 




way he had come, when he froze in amazed 
disbelief — standing in the open doorway 
watching him, was a woman. She just stood 
there with her hand on the knob, a stout, 
middle-aged woman with gray hair under a 
little, pertly styled bonnet and blue eyes be- 
hind rimless glasses. She was looking at him, 
her lips parted a little in surprise, as though 
she had expected to find someone else there. 

At the sight of her standing there like that, 
his well-oiled plans deserted him; he hadn't 
even remotely considered a chance intrusion. 
His first wild, blind impulse was to flee, to 
shoot his way out, but his clever, high-speed 
brain kept him from making such a fool mis- 
take. He reasoned : she's just standing there, 
not yelling her head off. So, she just thinks 
I belong here. I'll get her inside, let her have 
it, and — He came toward her, smiling, bow- 
ing politely. 

"Come in, madam," he invited heartily. 
"We are—" 

For a moment longer she just stood there, 
watching him like a hypnotized bird, shifting 
her bulk uneasily, trying to see past him into 
the office. She brought her hands up in a little 
gesture, as if to make a sign, then suddenly 
turned and fled. 

"Wait!" Rick shouted after her, but she 
scurried away and was gone before he could 
grab her. He cursed loud and luridly — she was 
on to him ! He had to catch her and kill her 
before she got away. She was a living, com- 
petent witness who had had plenty of time 
to memorize his face. 

He had the presence of mind to slap his hat 
on his head, hook his dark glasses on his long 
nose and grab the briefcase, before he dashed 
down the hall after her. But the pause had 
given her time to disappear ; he heard the 
elevator doors clang shut and the car was just 
dropping out of sight — he knew his ticket to 
the chair was on it. 

He took the stairs in amazing, long-legged 
strides, almost dropping straight down them. 
At the street floor, he compelled himself to 
pause a moment, then go swiftly but sanely, 
through the door into the foyer. The elevator 
car was loading for another ascent ; ahead of 
him, waddling desperately for the street, was 
the fat slob who could put the finger on him. 

Panic caught at him again. He had to stop 
her, had to! It was all he could do to keep 
from shouting at her to stop; he actually 
started to pull the gun from his pocket to shoot 
her as she drove ahead through the crowded 
foyer. She paused once as she came abreast 
the line of telephone booths, and Rick 



thought: here it is, she's calling the cops 
where I can't stop her, here in front of this 
mob. But she went on, and he guessed with- 
out looking that the phones were all busy. 

But it was a brief respite at best, a few 
more steps and she'd be on the street, yelling 
her head off for a cop. Back in his brain 
something seemed wrong, for why hadn't she 
given the alarm before this, to the elevator op- 
erator or someone? His quick mind had the 
answer : she was a woman scared silly and she 
was beating it for a place of refuge — her home, 
probably. She'd keep her tongue in silence un- 
til she could contact someone she trusted — her 
old man, likely. 

She lumbered out onto the street, paused a 
moment, while Rick, panicky in his fear and 
uncertainty, weighed his chances of plugging 
her right here and running for it, or tailing 
her. He had no choice ; while he hesitated, she 
popped into a waiting cab and was off down 
the street. 

He had a bad few seconds as he got his car 
out into traffic, but the drizzling, misty rain 
helped him, the cabby was a cautious soul and 
Rick caught up with him two blocks down. He 
kept close as they threaded through traffic, his 
eyes glued onto the back glass of the cab, 
where he could see her huddled and staring 
back at him repeatedly in her terror. 

He smashed the steering wheel a savage 
blow with his fist and let his rage run free. 
"The stinking idiot!" he snarled aloud. "I 
ought to have killed her right there in the 
office, then I wouldn't have to chase her a 
couple miles to do it." 

They came out onto the wide boulevard 
and the cab speeded up, but Rick drove care- 
fully, just keeping his quarry in sight; he 
didn't want to be picked up now. The rain 
beat steadily against the windshield; the 
sedate whir of the wiper was company for his 
thoughts. His master mind was already busily 
at work planning and as it worked, his rage 
vanished and his confidence returned. He could 
handle this job — easy!" He'd been right back 
there — she was holing up somewhere to wait 
a chance to spill what she'd seen after she got 
over her terror. And she wouldn't expect the 
killer to trail her clean out here in the sub- 
urbs ; she'd figure he was already on the lam. 
Which was O.K. for Rick Haines. 

The cab swung-off the boulevard, went 
down a quiet, tree-aisled street, lined on both 
sides by big, box-like houses set back from the 
sidewalk behind a narrow strip of lawn. Rick 
swung in, parked the stolen green Chevvy and 
watched intently ; the cab pulled up to the curb 

59 



60 



WILLIAM HELLMAN 



half-way down the street, the woman got out, 
scurried up the walk onto the wide porch. In 
the half-murk, Rick watched intently and 
when she used a key instead of ringing the 
bell, he laughed in pleased confidence, for it 
meant he had guessed aright — she'd be alone ! 

He clambered over the seat back, lifted the 
rear cushion and slid the briefcase back under 
a mess of papers and old rags he had placed 
there. He waited a while, then drove boldly , 
down and parked before the house. He got 
out, swung briskly up the flagstone walk, 
across the porch and punched the button. He 
didn't hear the sound of the bell within, so he 
punched the button again, peering through the 
curtained glass, and he saw a little light flash 
off and on somewhere inside in response to his 
fingered pressure. His lip curled in derision — 
of all the silly stunts ! So the big fool's nerves 
were too bad to stand the clatter of a bell, eh ? 

He never had a doubt that his surmise was 
correct, that she would answer his summons. 
He waited until she opened the door, stood 
looking at him enquiringly, then he whipped 
off the black glasses; she gasped in surprise, 
her eyes amazed. Her hands came up in a 
gesture again and before she had the wit to 
close the door on him, it was too late ; he was 
in the hall, the door closed, the little gun 
jammed deep against her soft, bulging middle. 

Her eyes were big pools of surprised terror. 

"Not a peep!" he warned savagely. "So 
you do recognize me, you blundering idiot ! 
Well, you'll never live to tell it ! " 

She was paralyzed in her horror, trying 
desperately to back away from him, her fingers 
twisting helplessly at her mouth, from which 
no words would come. He pushed the little 
gun deeper under her sagging breast, fired 
twice, the bullets slanting up and to the right. 
Her clutching fingers clawed at her mouth and 
face in a gripping spasm of pain and terror ; 
she swayed, then crumpled without a sound. 

Rick froze crouching over her, listening — 
the gun ready in his hand. But no other sound 
came to him, except somewhere the slow, 
ponderous ticking of a clock. The shots had 
made a small noise, like the snapping of a 
pencil, and perhaps there was someone else in 
another room. He couldn't wait to find out; 
cautiously he investigated and found no one, 
and relaxed with a grin. 

Swiftly, he executed the rest of his light- 
ning plan. He ransacked the house, turning out 
drawers and cupboards indiscriminately, spill- 
ing their contents in confusion, garnering 
items of value into a pillow slip. 

He came downstairs, dropped the sack of 
loot with a clatter on the kitchen floor, near 
the rear exit. He unlocked the door, leaving 
it partly open, and dropped the little gun near- 
by. He allowed himself a moment to grin in 
self -appreciation of his cleverness; the dumb 



pohfe would lay the crime to a prowler who 
had killed the woman, ransacked the house, 
then had been frightened into dropping his 
loot and escaping out the back door. The little 
gun could be easily traced to a small-time, 
misshappen snowbird with a long record. 

He went back through the hall to where the 
woman still lay, a lumpy, sprawling heap. He 
peered out into the street through the cur- 
tain; the rain had stopped, it was wholly de- 
serted and gray in the murky half-light. He 
put on his glasses, paused, went over and de- 
liberately kicked the woman in the face, 
laughed and opened the door. 

He was half-way through it, when he halted, 
stunned — a man was coming toward him on 
the sidewalk, not ten feet from the flagstone 
walk. A car was parked a little distance be- 
hind the Chewy. Instantly, Rick realized 
what had happened; he hadn't noticed the 
other car parked by the trees when he had 
looked out the curtains, and when he had gone 
back to kick the woman, the man had got 
out of it. Who was he? But more important, 
where was he going?- Rick Haines wanted 
desperately to duck back into the house, but it 
was too late; the man had seen him. 

His master mind came promptly to his res- 
cue. He paused, as though listening to the 
woman past the edge of the partly open door, 
said distinctly: "Thank you again, Mrs. 
Anderson." He almost grinned at the name, he 
had noticed it on a small plate on her mailbox. 
He stepped out onto the porch, his hand on the 
knob holding the door several inches ajar. "I 
really am sorry. ..." He paused politely to 
let her speak, stood- listening and nodding, 
aware that the little man on the sidewalk had 
slowed, was looking at him curiously. Rick 
ignored him. "Yes . . . I understand ... be- I 
lieve me, I'm sorry, too. Well ..." He laughed 
ruefully. "Guess I'll have to ask elsewhere. 
Bat thank you again. And goodbye," he added 
gallantly and closed the door behind him, 
knowing that the spring lock would work. : 

The little guy on the sidewalk was still look- 
ing at him, walking slowly, and a sudden rage 
flared up in Rick Haines, and he swore silently 
that he'd be damned if he'd leave a witness 
this time, no matter how remote the chances I 
of being identified, nor how involved the 
task of bumping him off. He had cleverly and \ 
effectively lulled any suspicions the lug may \ 
have had as to his business here, and now toj 
get him into the Chewy and the rest would 1 
be easy. And in his pocket a gun, which he | 
had a license to carry because of his apparent > 
lawful profession, would be enough persuasion. 4 
This buzzo was going to die! 

He stopped the little man with a word. 1 
What a skinny, innocent-looking worm ! "Can j 
you please tell me where J. E. Thalmus lives l 
hereabouts?" he asked politely. "Mrs. Ander- J 



•^~- "UU 



EASY KILL 



61 



son tells me she never heard of him at all." 

The little man's eye brows went up just a 
twitch. "Mrs. Anderson said that? Now that 
is strange — I mean, she has lived here all her 
life and gets about a lot and knows every soul 
on this quiet little street. She's a nice woman, 
Mrs. Anderson; kind and quiet-spoken." 

"You know her?" Rick asked and a little 
alarm bell tinkled back in his brain somewhere. 
"Yes, she is." Who is this lousy little runt, 
anyway ? Have I seen him some place before ? 
His hand went rigid, hard on the gun in his 
pocket. He was aware of the little guy's stare, 
of his quick glance at the bulging hand in his 
pocket. He laughed. "Well, I guess I'll have 
to go back for a better address." 

He moved a little, looking about to see if any 
chance window-watcher might see him force 
the little mug into the Chewy. Then the pee- 
wee surprised him. 

"Look," he said suddenly, in a sort of des- 
perate, choked voice, "would you give me a 
lift downtown?" He laughed ruefully. "That 
blasted skate of mine there quit on me up the 
street and I coasted to here." 

"Sure, sure!" Rick agreed heartily. "Glad 
to have you." His heart was singing now — 
boy, what a break ! A solid, hard whack on the 
buzzo's neck, then drive out along the high- 
way, open the door on that curve and let the 
body spill out, over the bank in the dark, and 
into the river below. As simple as that — and 
the little runt asking for it ! 

They came down off the quiet, tree-lined 
street onto the boulevard lanes, then turned 
west; there were plenty of places along here 
where he could knock the little guy out before 
they got into the congested district where 
traffic was heavy. He'd take it slow. . . . 

At an intersection, a cop stood in the re- 
newed drizzle, directing cross-traffic. Rick 
slowed the car to the required twenty-five; he 
was too smart to slip up now. But as they ap- 
proached the officer, the little man suddenly 
caught at the steering wheel with both hands, 
heaved with all his puny might. His might 
was as little as his body, but the maneuver 
caught Rick off guard because it was totally 
unexpected. Before his amazed senses could 
react properly, the wheel spun in his relaxed 
hands, the car swerved and plowed with ay 
rending crash into an iron trolley pole. 

The impact dazed him; for a moment he 
couldn't move. But the little man had the door 
open, was out on the street. The cop came 
over, angry and bawling. 

"Watch that man!" the little fellow 
shrilled. "He's dangerous. He just killed Mrs. 
John Anderson because he thought she saw 
him kill my cashier." w 

My cashier ! Rick heard the words and went 
numb — so he had seen the mug before — when 



he had cased the joint. He started up, but the 
cop was beside him, the door open, his big 
service pistol in his mitt. That cop wasn't a 
coward, but he wasn't a fool either. 

"Come out of there, fellow," he said stolidly. 

Cold terror revived Rick Haines. "He's a 
fool," he said furiously. "The jackass asked 
me for a lift, wrecked my car. I'm a salesman 
and I called on Mrs. Anderson on business.* 

"Yes," the little man cut in, dancing in his 
excitement. "Look, officer, I returned from 
lunch, found my man dead, the safe looted. I 
remembered that this is the day of the month 
that poor Kelly stayed to attend to Mrs. 
Anderson. She always came at noon when 
everyone else was out — you see, Officer, she 
was sort of sensitive about her — her ailment, 
and Kelly was the only one she would con- 
verse with. She came today, stumbled on this 
guy tapping the till, didn't see poor Kelly, and 
left because she was unwilling to deal with 
anyone else ! I don't believe she had any idea 
at all that this thug had killed, but—" 

"You libelous little fool!" Rick ranted. He 
kept his senses by reminding himself that they 
couldn't pin a thing on him. Sure they'd find 
her dead, but this runt himself would have to 
admit she was still alive when they left her ! 
"I never harmed your man, nor Mrs. Ander- 
son. You heard me talking to her when I — " 

"Yes," the little man said again. He grinned 
suddenly. "That's what put me next to you, 
warned me you were a phoney with something 
to hide. I came out to talk to Mrs. Anderson 
because she — well, she can't use the phone. I 
saw you come out, got a little suspicious, but 
I'd have to let you go unnoticed — if you hadn't 
stopped to talk to her. The rest I added up, 
and when I saw that gun in your fist in your 
pocket, I was sure. I was sure, too, that the 
car was stolen, so I deliberately got you to 
give me alift so I could — " 

"You're a fool!" Rick snarled, but some- 
thing in the little man's grin put terror in his 
soul. "Mrs. Anderson was alive when I left 
her. I talked to her — " 

"Sure, but she didn't talk back. She didn't, 
because she couldn't ! That's why she used a 
door-light instead of a bell — that should have 
tipped you off, if you saw it. And that's why 
Kelly alone could talk to her ; he alone could 
talk with his hands ! You see, wise guy, Mrs. 
Anderson did not talk to you, because she was 
a deaf mute, born deaf and dumb ! " 

Rick's panic possessed him completely then. 
He forgot everything, even his gun, in his lust 
for life. He swung around the car, raced in 
agony for the shielding corner and escape. 
The policeman's bullet shattered his leg, drop- 
ping him screaming to the street. 

"Wise guy," the little man said. "Just a 
death house dummy." 




RED DAWN 

By DON JAMES 



God knows, Larry had reason enough 
to wish Pete Lundquist dead, but 
when someone beat him to that ugly 
job of murder, Larry became "it" in 
a deadly game of hot-squat tag! 



LARRY HALDER gulped the last of the 
hot coffee he had made and looked at the 
clock. It was twenty-seven minutes after 
three and outside the night still was dark and 
cold. The bus passed the corner at three thirty- 
four. He'd have to hurry. 

Quietly he rinsed the cup and put it away. 
He didn't want to awaken Mildred. She hadn't 
spoken to him for three days — since their last 
quarrel — and if he awakened her now, she 
would probably go into a tirade about the split 
shifts he worked, the relatively low salary he 
earned, and what she thought of marriage to 
a news man who worked for a press bureau. 

He got into a top coat, put on his rain-bat- 
tered hat, and left the house. He had to run 
the three blocks to the bus line. 

Several passengers looked at him casually 
and settled back into early morning expres- 
sions of boredom and sleepiness. The bus 
picked up speed and rattled toward town. 

It disgorged most of its passengers at the 
central bus station and Larry hurried toward 



62 



RED DAWN 



63 



(he Examiner building, wishing he had time 
for a quick cup of coffee. He had to pass it 
up. The wire opened at four and he had to 
write and punch enough in the next forty min- 
utes to get something on for the four-thirty 
split. 

A janitor was mopping the entrance to the 
Examiner and nodded a greeting as Larry 
irarried in. Larry ran up the one flight of 
stairs to the city room where the Allied News 
service had its office partitioned off in one 
:orner. 

At one side of the large room, near the copy 
lesk, a light burned at a littered desk and a 
nan slept there in a top coat and hat tipped 
>ff his head. 

Larry smiled grimly. Pete Lindquist was 
m another one. It wasn't unusual to find the 
ice reporter at his desk sleeping off too many 
lours in the Press Club. Usually Larry or 
vhoever was working the early morning split 
vould awaken the good looking Examiner man 
>efore the paper's crew began to arrive. 

In the bureau office Larry hastily shed hat 
md coat and snapped on the teletypes. In a 
ew moments stuff would come in from San 
?rancisco and when they finished down there, 
^arry would feed his copy into the machine. 

The night man had left some overnight, 
lunched and ready to go. Larry quickly 
icanned the remainder of the last night's news 
md went to work. The teletypes began to 
;lick the California scoops. 

At four-thirty he fed in his punched tape 
ind watched the fifteen minutes of news clack 
>ut on the copy paper. Finished, he lit a ciga- 
■ette and relaxed. He had an hour and a half 
>efore the next split. Time for a cup of cof- 
ee and something to eat. At six his day man 
vould come on. 

As he went through the city room, Pete 
Lindquist grunted in his sleep and moved 
slightly. 

"Better let him sleep," Larry thought. 
'He'll wake up to a hangover soon enough." 

The might phone rang on the city editor's 
lesk. Larry hesitated for a moment and then 
mswered it. 

"Lindquist?" a voice asked. 

"No, but he's here. Wait a moment." 

"Never mind," the voice snapped. The line 
.vent dead. 

Larry dropped the telephone in its cradle. 
'Polite guy," he thought. 

The janitor had finished mopping and the 
ioyer was empty. As Larry left the building, 
i thin man in a black coat and hat down over 
lis eyes brushed past him going into the 
building. 

It was after five when Larry returned to tfte 
Examiner. He walked up the stairs feeling 
better with ham-and-eggs and coffee under 
his belt. 



He started through the city room when he 
noticed Lindquist and stopped. 

Something was wrong. Lindquist's head 
had turned on the desk top so that he faced 
Larry. His eyes were wide open, staring. 

Larry hurried to him and stopped again, his 
eyes riveted on the reporter. 

"Good God!" he breathed. 

Someone had caved in the back of Lind- 
quist's head. 

* * * 

The man in charge of the homicide squad 
introduced himself as Lieutenant Rodson. He 
was middle-aged and displayed the "efficiency 
that comes from long experience. 

Larry Haider explained what had happened ; 
about the telephone call and the thin man who 
had brushed past him at the building entrance. 

Rodson looked thoughtful. 

"Lindquist played around in some queer 
places," he said. "Places where a man can 
pick up enemies." 

Larry nodded. "He was in trouble with 
some husband last year, and I've heard other 
tales." 

An assistant who had been busy over the 
body turned to Rodson and handed him a 
wallet without comment. 

Rodson thumbed through the dead man's 
pocketbook. He glanced briefly at a social 
security card and a driver's license. Then he 
closely inspected a photograph. 

"Know the woman?" he asked Larry and 
passed a snapshot to him. 

Larry took it and tried to cover the hollow, 
empty shock that the picture brought to him. 
In the far corner of the room the teletype chat- 
tered monotonously. Rodson, sensing a change 
in Larry, looked at him closely. 

"Who is she?" he prompted. 

Larry didn't try to explain it in his mind, 
he simply stared at the picture and everything 
in the room and the world stood still. 

"I don't know," he muttered. 

TTIS' own questions began to assail him. 

_ What was Mildred's picture doing in 
Lindquist's wallet? What had been going on 
between his wife and the Examiner man ? Was 
this the answer to the frequent quarrels, the 
Strained marriage, the unhappiness ? He hadn't 
thought of another man, but there was her pic- 
ture in another man's wallet. 

Rodson was asking him a question. 

"What did you say?" Larry asked blankly. 

"You're sure you don't recognize her?" 

Larry shook his head. 

Rodson's eyes narrowed. "What's bothering 
you so much?" 

"I — I guess I'm not used to murder," Larry 
said tightly. 

Rodson nodded and looked impassively at 
squad men working at their routine jobs. A 



64 



DON JAMES 



medical examiner yawned and got ready to 
leave. Two men from an ambulance waited 
patiently with a stretcher. 

Larry hopelessly tried to make thoughts add 
up to a sensible answer. In the bureau office 
the teletype continued to chatter. 

"I've got to get the next split on the wire," 
Larry said tonelessly. 

A squad man held up a heavy piece of type 
metal that someone had used for a paper 
weight on a desk. 

"Killed him with this," he told Rodson 
briefly. 

"Fingerprints?" 
"Wiped clean." 

Rodson turned to Larry. "You'll be around 
today?" he asked. "We'll want to talk with 
you later." 

"I'll be around," Larry said. He walked 
stiffly to the bureau. He wondered how he was 
going to make sense of the news he'd have to 
punch on the teletype ticker. The only 
thought that pounded through his mind was 
the question of why his wife's picture had been 
found in the dead man's pocketbook. 

It was late morning when the excitement of 
the city room murder died down and things 
began to work smoothly. Larry slipped into 
his coat. 

"I'm going out for an hour or so," he said. 
"I'll call in." 

He' hurried through streets that had become 
alive with the morning and caught a bus. He 
tried not to think on the way out, but the 
questions drummed methodically at him, seek- 
ing, probing. 

Mildred was in the kitchen over a tardy 
breakfast when he arrived. Even in an old 
housecoat, with hair uncombed, she was pretty 
he thought. Pretty enough for a man like 
Lindquist to want. 

She looked up from her coffee in surprise 
when he came in. 

"What's wrong?" she asked. 
He walked to the sink and drank a glass of 
cold water before he answered. It helped to 
stop the trembling within him. 
"We'd better have a talk," he said. 
"If you came out here in the middle of the 
morning just to pick a quarrel with me — " 

"Someone murdered Pete Lindquist this 
morning," Larry said curtly. 

His wife's mouth remair=d open over un- 
said words and her eyes wi. ened. A thin line 
of whiteness edged itself an und her lips. 

"Murdered!" Her voice was a hoarse 
whisper. 

"The police found your picture in his 
wallet." 

Suddenly she was on her feet, staring at 
him. 

"You're lying!" she cried. "You're trying 
to frighten me!" 



SJ'm telling the truth," he said dully. "And! 
I'm learning another." 

"But I— we— " 

"Was there something between you two?*! 
he asked. 

She shut her eyes and tried to stop the vio^ 
lent trembling that swept over her. 

He crossed to her and his hands bit into her| 
shoulders. She was limp in his grasp. 

"Tell me," he whispered. "Tell me the! 
truth." 

She turned her head in a forlorn, hopelessj 
gesture. He shook her with straining fingersT 

Abruptly her eyes opened and she struggled 
to free herself. \ 

"I hate you!" she cried hysterically. "J 
hate you ! " She clawed at the fingers on hen 
shoulders. 

His hands dropped limply. 

"Then it's true about you and Lindquist, "j 
he said. 

"Yes! It's true! And now he's dead ! " 

She stumbled to a chair at the table and sank' 
down, a crumpled figure with head buried in 
her arms and sobs racking her body. 

Blindly Larry turned and walked out of thfi 
house. He wondered if he would ever return]; 
There was nothing left there for him. 
* * * 

On the way back to town the shock of the 
truth he had learned about his wife faded be-j 
neath the realization that eventually someoneg 
would identify the picture from Lindquist'* 
wallet. 

When Rodson learned who the woman was! 
he'd, know that Larry Haider had lied to himl 

Realization became icy water that spread! 
through Larry's body. 

"That gives me a motive," he thought/! 
"Rodson will tab me for the murder ! I should! 
have admitted that it was her picture ! " 

He remembered how vague his story hadf 
been. The telephone call ; the thin man coming! 
into the building. There was no one to prova 
that it wasn't Larry's imagination that had! 
invented the call and man. 

Perspiration broke out and crept from be-j 
neath his hat band. Within hours Rodsonj 
would send for him and there would be tha 
questions and the clumsy attempts to explain! 

They wouldn't believe that he hadn't knows! 
about his wife and the dead newspaper man"! 
Too many people in the bureau had heard him? 
quarrel over the telephone with Mildred, had! 
known that they were not getting along. 

He wondered how many of them knew about J 
Lindquist. Maybe he was the only one whol 
didn't know. Maybe the others had beenj 
laughing at him behind his back. 
_ But Rodson wouldn't laugh. Rodson would-1 
tie it all up into a motive, an opportunity, and t 
a murder with Larry Haider tabbed for a 
death cell. 



RED DAWN 



65 



THE bus stopped at a downtown corner and 
Larry left it hurriedly. He couldn't go back 
to the bureau now. He had to have time to 
think. 

He found a cafe and ordered coffee. The 
pungent taste of it seemed to clear his mind. 

"I've got to find that man who came in this 
morning," he thought. "And I've got to do 
it before Rodson identifies that picture and 
picks me up. I'll never get a chance if he 
takes me in." 

Larry tore at the puzzle, trying to find a 
place to start; an opening that would lead to 
the end. "Someone knew he was there," he 
thought. "The phone call. And he had been 
somewhere during the evening." 

The Press Club looked unusually empty in 
the morning. Larry went to the bar where a 
squat bartender nodded and wiped the top ex- 
pectantly. Larry ordered a soft drink. 

"So somebody killed Lindquist," the bar- 
tender said. 

Larry nodded. 

"Well, you never know," the bartender 
observed wisely. "Pete was in here late yes- 
terday afternoon. Little did I think he'd be 
dead today!" 

"Was he here alone?" Larry asked casually. 

The bartender smiled knowingly. 

"That guy alone when there was a woman 
within ten miles?" 

Nervous fear made Larry's next question 
low and hurried. 

"He was with a woman?" 

He wondered if the bartender would nod and 
describe Mildred. 

"He was with that babe who works in Tony 
Cintrella's night spot— Clara Lorn," the bar- 
keep said. "Blonde and like a calendar girl." 

Larry smiled in relief. 

"They went out together?" 

"About midnight. I wasn't here then, but 
Sam told me this morning. Sam's working 
night shift." 

"Pete and the gal must have made quite a 
night of it," Larry suggested. 

"They were plastered when they left here," 
the bartender grinned. 

Larry finished his drink and left. 

On a corner he debated his next move. A 
prowl car drove slowly by and instinctively he 
turned to look in a window. The car didn't 
stop. He wondered if Rodson had sent out a 
pick-up order for him. 

Abruptly he walked down the street. A few 
moments later he climbed stairs to the night 
club where Clara Lorn worked. 

The same vacant appearance of the Press 
Club hung over the night spot. The bar was 
deserted. At the far end of the place a janitor 
was waxing the floor. Near him was an open 
door into another room and the sound of a 
voice came faintly through the quiet. The 



voice stopped and there was the sound of a 
telephone dropping into its cradle. 

Larry walked across the club to the open 
door. The janitor glanced at him impassively 
and continued his waxing. 

It was a 1 office and a short, fat man with 
thinning h ir looked up from papers on a 
desk. 

"Something I can do for you?" the fat man 
asked. 

"Are you Cintrella?" 

The fat man nodded. 

Larry said, "A girl named Clara Lorn 
works for you. She was with Pete Lindquist 
last night before he was murdered this morn- 
ing. I'm from Allied News. Thought there 
might be a story if I talked with her." 

If news of Lindquist's death startled the 
nightclub owner, he- didn't show it. Larry sup- 
posed it had been on the radio, though. 

"She comes to work this afternoon," Cin- 
trella said. "Yesterday was her day off." 

"Do you know where she lives?" 

Cintrella hesitated and then shrugged. He 
brought a small notebook from a desk drawer 
and consulted it. Indifferently he gave Larry 
an address. 

Larry thanked him and turned to leave. 

"Just a second," Cintrella said softly. "You 
going to use her name in a story?" 

"Probably — if there's a story." 

"You going to mention where she works?" 

Larry got it then. He smiled crookedly. 
"I'll leave the name of your club out, if that's 
what you mean." 

Cintrella smiled. "That's fine. Want a 
drink?" 

Larry refused and Cintrella walked to the 
main entrance with him. 

"I know you got to print the news," he 
said. "But if you leave the name of the club 
out, I'll appreciate it. Getting mentioned in 
murder stories isn't good publicity. Some guys 
like it. I don't." " 

Outside, Larry took a taxi to the address 
Cintrella had given him and found that it was 
a third rate apartment house. He found her 
apartment number on an outside listing. A 
middle-aged woman carrying a shopping bag 
came out. Larry caught the door before it 
■ could latch and went in. 

HTTHE apartment was on the third floor. He 
-*- rapped three times before a voice answered 
him. 

"Who is it?" 

"Telegram," Larry said. 

There was movement within the apartment 
and the door opened. A blonde wearing a thin 
bathrobe over pajamas eyed him suspiciously. 

"What's the gag?" she demanded. 

He grinned. "I'm from Allied News. Some- 
one murdered Pete Lindquist this morning." 



66 



DON JAMES 



The girl regarded him with steady eyes. 
After a few moments she spoke. 

"So somebody killed him. What does that 
make me?" 

"You were out with him last night." 

"What time was he killed?" 

"Around five o'clock." 

"I left him at four," she said. 

"Let me come in and talk it over." 

She shook her head. "There's nothing to, 
talk over." 

Larry looked at her shrewdly. "You're in 
the clear, but you were with him last night. 
How the papers play it depends upon how you 
play it." 

Abruptly she opened the door. "Come in," 
she said shortly. 

She motioned him to a chair and selected 
a davenport for herself. When she lit a ciga- 
rette, he noticed that her hand trembled. 

"Who killed him?" she asked. 

"They don't know." 

"What do you want from me?" 

"Where you went and what you did." 

Her account was colorless. They had left the 
Press Club and visited several night clubs, in- 
cluding Cintrella's. Lindquist had taken her 
home at about four o'clock. That was the last 
she had seen of him, 

Larry was thoughtful. "Did he talk with a 
tall, thin man in a dark topcoat during the 
night?" 

"I don't think so." 

Something about the way she avoided his 
eyes made him press further. "Do you know 
a man who looks like that?" 

She looked at him with expressionless eyes. 
"Maybe," she said. "Why?" 

"Because a man who looks like that prob- 
ably killed him." 

She stood and restlessly walked about the 
room. Finally she stopped at a window and 
gazed down into the street. 

"What makes you think that?" she asked 
over a shoulder. 

"I saw a man like that go into the Examiner 
just before he was murdered," he said flatly. 

At the window the girl stiffened, her eyes 
intent upon the street below. Abruptly she 
whirled and spoke, but it wasn't to Larry. She 
was looking beyond him at a half closed door 
that obviously led into her bedroom. 

"Nick," she said sharply. "The cops! 
They're downstairs!" 

The door swung back and a man came into 
the room. 

Larry sprang to his feet. The man was the 
thin man he sought. 

"I want you," Larry snapped and started 
toward the man. 

The man called Nick brought a hand from a 
coat pocket and a squat, blue gun jerked up 
toward Larry. "And I want you," he said. 



jjjpmewhere in the apartment a door buzzer; 
sounded. 

"What'll I do, Nick?" the girl asked tensely. 

"Stall. I'll take this guy down the back: 
stairs and out the basement door." 

The man stepped toward Larry. "Turn 
around and out the door," he barked. 

The newsman looked at the gun and turned. 

They walked along a hallway to back stairs. 
The gun nudged against Larry and the: 
man's breathing was close on his neck. 

The basement was empty and they scurried 
into an alley. 

"Down the alley and turn left," Nick in- 
structed. "The blue coupe. You'll drive." 

Larry wet dry lips and nodded. He suddenly 
realized that Nick had heard every word that 
had been said in the apartment. That meant 
that Nick knew he had been identified as 
a probable murderer. Suddenly Larry was 
frightened. There was no reason why Nick' 
shouldn't plan to kill again to cover another; 
crime. 

A few moments later Larry slipped behind; 
the wheel of the coupe. Nick inserted the; 
ignition key in the lock and turned it. 

"Out the boulevard to the Hacienda," he 
said. 

Larry recognized the name of a suburban 
night club. 

"And be careful," the man added. "I don't 1 
mind killing." 

During the afternoon it had grown hot in 
the small backroom at the Hacienda. Sitting, 
across the room from Larry, Nick lit anotheri 
cigarette and looked at the newspaper man 
with bleak eyes. 

When they arrived, the man in the dark top- 
coat had locked Larry in the room and Larry 
had heard the dialing of a telephone down the 
hallway and then a few low words. Nick had 
come back to the room then. 

Since his return there had been no talk, no 
movement, just the methodical lighting of 
cigarettes and Nick's hands toying with the: 
squat gun. 

Larry glanced at his wrist watch. It was! 
after three. He wondered what was happening? 
at the Examiner and at the bureau. He won-; 
dered what Lieutenant Rodson was doing. 

QUDDENLY heavy footsteps sounded in 
^ the hallv ay and the door jerked openil 
Cintrella wal ed into the room looking out of] 
breath and worried. 

He gave Larry Haider a brief glance and; 
then turned to Nick. 

"This is a hell of a mess, Tanner!" he exl 
ploded. 

Nick Tanner eyed him with an amused 
smile. 

"You ought to know," he said easily. "Yon 
started it." 



RED DAWN 



67 



Something like fear crossed Tony Cintrella's 
eyes. 

"Shut up," he snapped. "Not in front of 
him." 

"Why not?" Nick Tanner asked. "He saw 
me go into the Examinei He was looking for 
me." 

Cintrella began to pace the floor; a thick, 
heavy man obviously perturbed. 

"How much does he know?" he demanded 
of Tanner. 

The man shrugged. "Too much." 

"I shouldn't have let you go through with 
it," Cintrella rapped. "I knew that as soon as 
you left." 

"Lindquist is dead," Tanner said tonelessly. 

"You loused it up," Crinella said angrily. 
"You let this guy see you. I should have 
known better that to use a damn fool who — " 

"That's enough," Tanner said softly. "My 
gun is for hire, but I can"nse it for myself. 
Don't shove. Maybe I'll decide to use it." 

Tony Crinella mopped at his face with a 
handkerchief. "Okay,- okay," he muttered. 
"What are we going to do?" 

"You figure that. This town is your back 
yard; not mine." 

Cintrella stuffed his handkerchief into a 
pocket. 

"Incidentally," he snapped at Tanner, 
"where were you all morning ? I tried to find 
you." 

"In Clara Lorn's apartment." 

The night club owner stared at him. "I 
told you to stay away from her. I wouldn't 
have given this monkey her address if I had 
known you were there !" He paused and add- 
ed, "How much does she know?" 

Tanner shrugged. "She's not dumb." 

"Damn you ! I—" 

Suddenly Tanner stood. "Okay, fat boy," 
he said thinly. "Let's cut out the gab. You 
found oii> that Lindquist had learned you're 
wanted for murder in New York and planned 
to use it in the clean-up job the Examiner 
wants to start against the hot spots in town. 
You get me last night after Lindquist got too 
many drinks in your joint and hinted what he 
was going to do to you. You tell me to fol- 
low him when he leaves with Clara and to take 
care of him. I did, but this punk sees me go. 
in. We're both in a spot, but not the spot he's 
in." 

Larry swallowed hard, his eyes intent upon 
the two men. 

"Will you shut up?" Cintrella demanded. 
"Spilling all that in front of this guy !" 

"What's the difference?" Tanner smiled. 
"He's not going to be talking any more after 
while. Dead men haven't much to say.'i- 

Cintrella had the handkerchief out again 
I sopping at his forehead. 

Full realization of what Tanner meant 



drummed into Larry's mind. He got to his 
feet. 

"You can't — " he started to say. 

Tanner motioned the gun toward him. "Sit 
down." 

Larry sat down again, desperately wonder- 
ing if he would have a chance if he rushed the 
thin man. Abruptly he wished he had gone to 
Rodson and told him the story. This wasn't a 
job for an amateur. You had to be tough to 
deal with killers. Tougher than a news bureau 
man. 

Tanner nodded at a newspaper in Cintrella's 
coat pocket. 

"What are the cops doing?" he asked. 

Cintrella unrolled the paper. Larry recog- 
nized an early street edition of the Examiner. 
He could see the heavy, black headline: 
"Examiner Reporter Murdered." 

Cintrella glanced down the page and a 
change came over him. His heavy frown disap- 
peared and he looked thoughtful. 

"I didn't get a chance to read this on the 
way out," he said. He looked at Larry. 
"What's your name, punk?" 

"Larry Haider." 

The fat man smiled and looked at Tanner. 

"The cops are looking for him," he said. 
"They learned that Lindquist was playing 
around with this guy's wife, and they label his 
story about you and the phone call as phony — 
he left there this morning and said he'd be 
back in an hour. They're still looking for him 
and for their money he's guilty." 

Tanner's eyes narrowed. 

"Okay, I'll take it from there," he said. 

"We bump this guy and make it look like 

suicide. We make him write a confession to 

leave. That takes care of everything." 
* * * 

Once during the day the shock of learning 
about his wife's infidelity had made life sour 
and hopeless to Larry Haider. Now faced with 
death, he realized that it was sweet. He didn't 
want to die. What had happened between Mil- 
dred and him seemed suddenly far away and 
almost unimportant. Now the important thing 
was to live. And facing him in the small room 
was death. 

A deep urgency became a frantic despera- 
tion to prolong time, to delay death. He 
grasped at straws. 

"You'd better get straightened out with 
your fat partner, Tanner," he said. His voice 
was weak when he wanted it to be strong. 
His thoughts were mice wildly trying to es- 
cape a trap. 

Tanner looked at him. 

MQOMEONE called Lindquist just before he 
^ was killed," Larry blurted rapidly. "He 
hung up before I could call Pete. Maybe some- 
one was trying to warn him. Maybe it was 



w&s* 



68 



DON JAMES 



Cintrella. He just said he shouldn't have let 
you go through with it." 

"So what?" Tanner asked. 

"If Cintrella called, that means he was 
afraid — that he didn't trust you at the last mo- 
ment and thought you'd blow things." 

"You're crazy," Cintrella snapped. "Why 
should I—?" 

"Let him talk," Tanner interrupted. 

Cintrella mopped at his forehead and was 
silent. 

Larry said, "If he didn't trust you then, 
he won't now. He's afraid of you. You know 
too much and you've murdered for him. He's 
been running away from one rap for a long 
time." 

"Keep talking," Tanner said. 

"The easiest way to keep you from talking 
is to get rid of you." 

"I can take care of myself," Tanner 
snapped. 

"This is Cintrella's back yard," Larry re- 
minded him. "Not yours. How many other 
guys has he around to handle things for him? 
Or maybe he might do it himself. He's mur- 
dered before." 

The fat night club owner spoke harshly. 
"He's stalling. Your idea is good, Nick. Go 
ahead with it. Make him write the confes- 
sion." 

Tanner looked at him with deadly interest. 
"Maybe he talks sense," he said softly. "Did 
you call Lindquist when I was heading there ? 
Were you going to tip him off?" 

"No!" 

"I called you and told you where he was. 
Said I had to wait until the janitor got out of 
the entrance. Did you call him?" Tanner 
pressed. 

"No ! Don't think that I—" 

"I think you're lying," Tanner said. 

"Nick, I didn't!" Cintrella said harshly. 

"Maybe I'd be smart to. eliminate everyone 
who knows that I bumped Lindquist," Nick 
Tanner said. "Except Clara. I'll take her 
with me." 

_ Cintrella's floridness paled and grey tinged 
his lips. 

"Wait, Nick ! Don't let this guy give you 
ideas." 

The gunman's full attention was on the fat 
man now. Larry felt his leg muscles contract 
and he was very still. He'd been lucky and 
he'd started something. 

Tanner's gun was up again and this time it 
menaced Cintrella. 

"I don't think I like you," Tanner said in 
his quiet voice. 

"Don't be a fool, Nick. I'm in this as deep 
as you are. You know about that rap back 
east. You've got me where you want me." 

"You can always talk if you're alive," Tan- 
ner told him. 



Tony Cintrella stared down at the gun in 
Tatwer's hand. 

"No!" he whispered. 

"Cintrella, you'd fold like a wet bar towel 
if the cops got tough with you," Tanner said. 
"I don't like it. I'm going to do something 
about it." 

His eyes watched Cintrella carefully. The 
smile on his tightened lips had become tense 
and ugly. 
■ "No!" Cintrella cried. "Nick! You're 
wrong! I — " 

Nick Tanner took a step toward him and 
the springs that were Larry Haider's leg mus- 
cles uncoiled as he lunged toward the gun- 
man. \ 

Desperately Larry struck down on Tanner's 
gun arm. Sharp pain ripped through his wrist, 
but he heard the sharp grunt from Tanner and 
the clattering sound of the gun hitting the 
floor. " , 

Larry fell forward, his body over the gun, 
a hand groping madly for it. 

Tanner kicked and the blow thudded into 
Larry Haider's face. There was a flash of red 
before his eyes he tried desperately to clear 
his mind. 

The touch of metal in the hand beneath him 
helped. He rolled and tried to fend off kicks 
with his free arm. Something crashed into his 
mouth. He spit out blood. 

He rolled again and brought the gun up. 
Blindly he pulled the trigger knowing that he 
probably would miss, but hoping the shot 
would stop them momentarily. 

He didn't miss. Cintrella screamed and 
staggered to the wall holding his wounded 
shoulder. 

"I'm hit . . . I'm hit ..." he moaned fran- 
tically. 

Tanner hurled himself at Larry ai d Larry 
fired again, low. Tanner lurched a\ .kwardly 
and crashed to the floor, his hands p..wing at 
a shattered shin bone. 

Larry stumbled to his feet and backed to 
the door. There was a key on the outside. He 
turned it as he quickly slammed the door to 
the room. 

Down the hallway he saw the wall telephone 
Tanner had used. 

His breath was heavy as he spoke rapidly to 
the desk sergeant who took his call. 

Down the hallway in the locked room Cin- 
trella still moaned. He was moaning when 
Lieutenant Rodson unlocked the door twenty 
minutes later. 

The bus stopped at his corner and Larry 
Haider alighted and headed wearily for home. 
He was tired and his nerves were tight 
through him like singing violin strings. 

The scene at the hospital marched through 
his mind like a monotonous parade. Cintrella, 
broken, moaning, talking wildly and accusing 



RED DAWN 



69 



Tanner. Tanner's tight-mouthed silence. Then 
the ugly words he voiced at Cintrella. And 
later at headquarters with Clara Lorn, fright- 
ened and talking. Answering questions with 
deep fear in her eyes. 

Afterwards Rodson shook hands with Larry 
Haider and congratulated him. He handed a 
telephone to him so that he could phone the 
story in. A bureau man is a newspaper man 
first; other things would have to come after- 
wards. 

TVTO W he walked toward the house where he 
■*■' and Mildred had lived and loved and 
quarreled and eventually found unhappiness. 

The door was unlocked. 

He left his coat and hat in the hallway and 
walked slowly into the kitchen. Mildred was 
there and food was cooking on the stove. She 
stoo ' at the sink staring straight ahead out 
the \ indow. 

"IVe a good dinner for you," she said. 
"You must be tired. I've had the radio on. I 
know about it." 

Larry wet his bruised lips with his tongue 
and tried to make sense of what she said. He 
had expected to find her gone, the house empty 
and cold. He didn't understand this. Or did 
she think he was fool enough to — 

She turned and tears were streaming down 
her face. "I've had a lot to think about to- 
day, Larry," she said. "I've been a fool. What 
happened between Pete and me wasn't as seri- 
ous as you think. I kissed him a few times 
and I thought I was crazy about him. But 
when he was murdered and you — you were 
gone and they couldn't find you ..." 



She stopped and then went on in a choked 
voice. 

"I've died a hundred deaths today. Think- 
ing that maybe you'd killed for me. Thinking 
he might be dead because of me. And they 
told about him and Clara Lorn and . . . and I 
knew he'd been playing with me. I think I've 
always known." 

Tears made her eyes bright under the kitch- 
en light. On the stove a tea kettle began to 
sing. 

"I'll do anything you say," she whispered. 
"I'll leave if you want it that way. But — but 
I love you, Larry." 

Too many things were with him and he 
couldn't think straight. People could make mis- 
takes. Mildred could. He remembered how it 
had been at first. He remembered his own 
mistakes. You can't be right always, but you 
can learn. 

Tomorrow he'd think about it. Tomorrow 
they could talk about it. Maybe it would be 
all right. Maybe it would even be better. 
Sometimes it took something like this to make 
things right. 

"Anything you say," she whispered her 
eyes gentle. 

He tried to smile and it brought a sharp" 
twinge of pain to his lips. 

"Then how about a little dinner?" he said 
softly. 

He didn't know how gentle her lips could 
be until they were pressed against his bruised 
mouth. 

And maybe the kiss was rushing things a 
little. Somehow, though, he didn't care. 
Things were going to be all right. 




He was tough and steel-hard, all right; a mean and mer- 
ciless private eye who, as he cheerfully admitted, would 
yank the gold fillings from his dead grandmother's teeth 
for a profit. I hated him but I had to work for him and 
I'm afraid to think what might have happened if it 
weren't for the corpse, the crying girl— and a bowl of 
milk. . . . 

MURDER-MISER-PLEASE ! 

A fast-paced and thrilling detective novel 
By D. L. Champion 

PAY THROUGH THE NOSE! 

C. William Harrison's breath-taking 
lady-killer novel 

— ALSO — 

Other excellent novels, novelettes and stories by 
such murder maestros as Talmadge Powell, 
Joel Reeve, Eric A. Provost and others— all in 
the big August issue of DETECTIVE TALES. 



ONE LAST 




Barney raced for 
the cellar. 



This was the last time Eddie would 
search for his lovely, too-lively torch' 
singer wife. Until she, herself, started 
to seek him, with her blue, dead 
fingers groping blindly from the lacy 
tissue of the candy box. , « , 



70 



THE young man lit a cigarette before. 
he went inside the tavern. He knew! 
he'd need one in there, but he couldn't) 
risk having anybody notice how fcis hand ! 
shook. 

t He went straight to the end of the bar. The 
piano was just four feet away. 
"Gimme a double shot, Whitey." 
The bartender set it down carefully. The | 
glass was pretty full. 

"Flora's not here yet, Eddie. She told mei 
to tell you not to wait." 

The young man filled his lungs with smoke,' 
and blew it out with a hiss like steam taking ; 
a lid off. 

"I'll wait," he said, trying to control hisi 
hand as he reached for the shot glass of raw I 
whisky. 
"Okay, Eddie. But it's a shame to spill thatj 



SONG FOR FLORA. 



whiskey. Want I should lift it up to your 
mouth?" 

"Go to hell, Whitey!" 

"Now look, kid. Why get sore at me? I 
give you a message from Flora, that's all. She 
told me to tell you. . . ." 

"Yeah?" asked Eddie, his eyes too bright 
in his haggard face. "She says I shouldn't 
wait. Just when did she tell you that?" 

"This aftenoon. She dropped in about four 
and picked up her pay envelope. Then she sat 
down at the piano and played a couple of tunes 
absent-like. Her eyes were on the glassy side 
. . . you know. . . ." 

"Who else was here then, Whitey?" 

"Just the usual. Barney Emmett was hang- 
ing over the piano and she wasn't giving him 
any chatter at all. Her face was white and 
she looked plenty sore at the guy. And Cass 
Edwards was around with his gang, pretty 
drunk and loud." 

"I should have busted Barney Emmett's 
lantern jaw a long time ago," said Eddie. 
"The way he hangs around Flora." 

"Barney's not a guy you can bust," said 
Whitey, shrugging bitterly. "Lot of people 
have tried that to their sorrow. And I guess 
Flora can handle herself." 

Eddie finally got the shot glass to his mouth 
without spilling more than a third of it over 
his hand. 

"Who went with Flora when she left here, 
Whitey?" 

"I dunno, kid. She goes out the back way 
after leaving the message for you and I don't 
notice particularly. Why? How come you're 
so upset about the dame all of a sudden?" 

Eddie was watching the bartender's face 
very closely, but Whitey had a hard map to 
read and he looked as calm as ever. 

"Just in the mood for asking questions, 
Whitey. That's all. She said I shouldn't wait 
for her, huh?" 
"That's right." 

"And what time did she say it?" 
"Four o'clock." 
"Okay, Whitey. So long." 
Eddie glanced once at the piano as he left. 
Flora wouldn't be sitting there tonight playing 
those lazy tunes she toved so much. Her round 
white arms wouldn't be moving with the 
rhythms of the dreamy speU she created. Her 
warmth was gone. The piano looked black 
and cold, as forbidding as an automatic. 

Be walked two blocks down and got into 
his cab. 



A fare came up. 

"Sorry, buddy," said Eddie. "I got a call." 
He drove off, his hands sweating on the wheel. 

Whitey was a damn liar ! At four o'clock 
that afternoon Flora had been dead for several 
hours! It was just after his noon stop for 
eggs and a cup of steam that he'd found her 
body stuffed into the back of his cab. 

Not all of her body — just part of it — Just 
the head with a few strands of the blonde hair 
caught in the zipper of the leather bowling 
bag. 

The shock hadn't worn off. It was still 
pounding through him, making it impossible 
for him to think of what he ought to do. Go 
to the police? Hell, they'd slap him in $ie 
clink so fast he -wouldn't have a chance. It : 
would be open and shut to them. 

Flora was a handful as well as an eyeful, i 
And when you're married to a dame like that ! 
there's bound to be other guys. And in a spot j 
like that the cops can figure you've got a 
solid motive for killing her. Somebody else : 
had thought of that angle and had planted 
enough evidence in his cab to send him to the 
chair. Eddie didn't want to play that way. 

So he had kept quiet all afternoon, trying; 
to guess it out. He had put the bowling bag: 
into the trunk of the car without looking at 
the thing again. One look had been enough.) 
One touch of the yellow hair, one glimpse of ' 
that fair skin faintly dotted with freckles. 

He knew vaguely what he had to do now. 
The same thing he'd done a lot of other nights, j 
Look for Flora. Only this time he wouldn't) 
be expecting to find her higher than a kite, j 
making the rounds of the joints with five or I 
six men. He'd be looking for the rest of her ! 
body. It had to be somewhere. 

And when he found it, he might findevi-. 
dence enough on somebody else to make it all I 
right for him to yell copper. 

But not until. Eddie knew enough about 
circumstantial evidence to know that he'd be 
everybody's choice for the most likely suspect. , 
A clear conscience doesn't do you any good : 
at all. Not if the court thinks you're guilty. 

HE DROVE to the apartment to shave and 
change clothes, trying desperately to 
think straight with his aching head. One 
thing was for sure. Somebody had killed Flora 
and was trying to frame him. 

But Eddie hadn't any desire to burn for a 
murder he didn't commit. There wasn't any 



By DOROTHY DUNN 



7.1 \ 



"72. 



DOROTHY DUNN 



special reason why he should want to go on 
living, he told himself. He didn't have a 
helluva lot to look forward to, but he kept 
thinking of little things he liked about being 
alive. He got a kick out of the goofy fares he 
ran across; he liked the thick flapjacks he 
got at the diner with the hunks of hard butter 
melting under the syrup; he liked to walk up 
Randolph Street on his night off and maybe 
take in a movie; he liked big steins of beer 
in the summer and the free concerts in Grant 
Park. Not much to live for, but it was his 
life and he liked it. 

Something else was important beside saving 
his own skin. Somebody had killed Flora and 
they ought not to get away with it. It was a 
lousy thing and made him burn deep inside 
with a longing to get his hands around the 
killer's throat and give him a dose of his own 
medicine. 

He thought about Flora as he snaked the 
cab through the heavy traffic to his apartment 
on the south side. He didn't have much real 
feeling left for her. He'd loved her plenty in 
the beginning, like all these other guys did 
now. Some dames are like that. They got 
hearts so big they can always find room for 
one more. And that's a good kind of woman 
to be crazy about, but it's hell to be married 
to one. 

You get to watching out for her like you 
would a kid, because she's not too bright about 
the company she keeps. You quit being jealous 
after a while and just hope she won't get onto 
reefers or something really bad. You let her 
take the job at Whitey's playing the piano. 
And you hope it'll do her good. But it doesn't. 
Too many guys come in there that fall for her. 
It makes it easier to keep track of her, though. 
You know it's always from Whitey's that she 
started out and that makes it simpler to pick 
up her trail if you have to go out looking for 
her. 

So when she gets killed, you don't cry your 
eyes out. But you do start remembering her 
round white arms, her full red lips, and the 
way she always had a smile for everybody, 
including you. 

Eddie remembered how warm her hands 
always were, how full of love and excitement. 
She had led him a dog's life, sure. But there 
hadn't ever been any other woman for him, 
and he'd hunt out her killer if it was the last 
thing he ever did. 

And it'll probably be that, he thought grimly 
as he climbed the stairs to their two-room 
apartment. Especially if I have to tangle with 
Barney Emmett. Whitey was right — nobody 
ever had any luck getting the goods on that 
guy — not even the cops. He had an organiza- 
tion that made Capone's old gang look like a 
.bunch of boy scouts. And Barney had been 
seeing Flora pretty often. He was in Whitey's 



placg nearly every night. In fact, since Flora 
haa gone to work there, Barney had prac- 
tically taken over at the small tavern. Eddie 
wore, just thinking about that big jutting jaw 
and the thick, selfish mouth. Guys like that 
shouldn't be allowed to operate the way they 
do. They get too smart, get to thinking they're 
like God. But Whitey was right. Try to buck 
up against a thug like Barney! You know 
better — you don't know how you know — you 
just do. 

Eddie snapped the lights on, noticing the 
apartment was just the way it always was. 
The rooms smelled musty and the Murphy bed 
was folded up sloppily, the mattress sagging 
where it had slipped out of the clamps. Flora's 
make-up things were scattered over the top of 
the desk in the livingroom because there was 
a better light there. Her mascara box was 
open and she had left a stocking hanging over 
the back of a chair. There was that choking 
dust over everything, big gray rolls of it under 
the heavy pieces of furniture where Flora 
said it didn't show anyway. 

He walked into the dinette and kitchen. The 
breakfast dishes were still in the sink. His 
cup was there and Flora's with the lipstick 
smear on one side and there was an egg shell 
under the stove where Flora must have aimed 
at the can and missed. 

Nothing looks different, he thought. He'd 
half expected to see something changed to 
show that Flora had broken her usual routine 
on the day of her murder. But she must have 
gone out like always, not expecting anything 
to happen. 

Eddie put the bowling bag into the far cor- 
ner of the closet, not knowing what else to do ' 
with it. He couldn't keep carrying it around 
in his cab. Just touching the leather straps 
and feeling the weight of it, produced a quick, 
slimy sweat on his skin. 

He took a warm shower and then went back 
to the closet to get his good suit, the double- 
breasted brown that Flora had liked. He tried 
not to think of the grisly thing that was there 
in the dark corner of the cubicle. He won- 
dered if he would shudder like this every time 
he opened the closet door. 

He put his old suit on the hanger — funny — 
he didn't have to squeeze all the clothes back 
to get it on the rod — there seemed to be more 
room. Then his eyes really focused on the 
interior. 

Flora's clothes were gone] The fur coat, 
her two evening dresses that she wore on spe- 
cial nights at Whitey's. The plain black thing 
that she wore so it always looked like a dif- 
ferent dress, sometimes with a lace collar, 
sometimes with beads, and sometimes with a 
jewel belt. The green wool that she said made 
her look hippy. 

All her clothes gone out of the closet. But 



ONE LAST SONG FOR FLORA 



n 



' no make-up things ! That looked plenty queer 

I to Eddie. Flora would rather go off without 

;her dresses than without her mascara and 

creams and powder. Not only that, the only 

suitcase they had was still on the closet shelf, 

and it was empty. Eddie looked. 

THERE was only one answer. Flora hadn't 
packed those clothes herself 1 Somebody 
else had run the risk of coming here and leav- 
ing with a suitcase full on the day she was 
murdered and cut up into pieces. 

He switched off the lights and went out the 
back way onto the concrete porch and down 
the back steps to the janitor's apartment. 
Maybe Albert had seen somebody around. 

Albert came to the door looking comfortable 
with a pipe in his mouth, 

"Hello, Mr. Henderson. What's on the bum 
now? I fixed that stopped drain last week." 
"Yeah, I know. Thanks, Albert. Say, did 
you see anybody around here today?" 

"Always see people around. Dozens. Who 
you mean?" 

"Up at my place. Did you happen to notice 
anybody going up there or coming out?" 

"Don't believe so," said Albert, wrinkling 
his shiny black brow with the painful process 
of thought. "Nope, don't recall seeing anybody 
around your place. Your wife out helling 
around again, Mr. Henderson?" 

"That's none of your damn business!" 

flared Eddie. , . 

"Now wait a minute," soothed Albert in his 

gentle drawl, "I didn't mean to go stickin' 

my nose in where it don't belong. Didn't mean 

that at all. But it's no secret in this building 

about what kind of a life Mrs. Henderson 

! leads you. You're a hard-working, steady sort 

I of man and it's a shame what you have to 

put up with. I just asked because if there's 

[anything I can do. . . ." 

Eddie gave him a crooked grin, sorry that 
jhe'd blown his top. Hell, he couldn't count 
[the thnes that the good old coon had come out 
i to help him get Flora up the back stairs. 

"Sorry, Albert, I'm just on edge. You sure 
j you didn't notice a man around the building 
'with a suitcase?" 

j "With a suitcase? Yes, now that you men- 
tion it, Mr. Henderson. But not up at your. 
I place: He passed me in the lobby about two 
[this afternoon." 

"Why didn't you say so !" yelled Eddie. 
"You didn't say suitcase. Besides, he wasn't 
i coming out of your apartment when I saw 
him. Just down in the lobby. Maybe that's 
not even the one." 

"What did he look like, Albert?" 
"I hardly noticed. Big heavy-set iellow 
with thick lips, dark hair, I think." 

Barney Emmett! Those lips always stuck 
out. Albert would have turned white if fii'd 



realized that he had just put the finger on the 
big shot hood himself. 

"Well, thanks Albert. So long." 

"That the guy you want?" 

"Maybe. Take it easy," said Eddie. 

He climbed into his cab and drove toward 
Whitey's place. He had to find the rest of 
Flora and then find her kiHer. And when 
you're looking for Flora, it's always Whitey's 
that you start out from. 

But he didn't get far. A black sedan shot 
out of a side street, half a block from his own 
apartment, and nosed his cab to the curb. 

"What the hell. . . ?" muttered Eddie, star- 
ing into the muzzle of an automatic. 

"Climb out, hacker. Somebody else is doing 
the driving tonight. Crawl into the back seat 
of the sedan and see what it feds like to be 
a customer." 

Eddie turned his eyes toward the car. There 
were three men inside in addition to the 
bruiser that was holding a gun on him. 

"Gonna make trouble, Bud?" 

"No, "said Eddie, getting into the car. "I 
guess 111 mind. Where we going?" 

"He wants to know where we're going!" 
the big man with the gun said. The others 
laughed nastily. 

Eddie shut up then. Punks ! Just a crowd 
of punks out on a routine pick-up job and 
trying to have a little fun on the side scaring i 
him. Well, he wasn't scared. If Barney Em- 
mett wanted to see him, it saved him the 
trouble of looking for Barney. 

He fished out a cigarette. The man with 
the gun tensed. 

"Mind if I smoke?" asked Eddie. 

"Go right ahead. The smell of it don't 
bother me none," quipped the guy in a falsetto. 
"But you're a real gentleman to ask first! 
They laughed at that, too. 

"Thanks, Sweetheart," mumbled Eddie, 
wishing he could take one good poke at this 
smart-pants, 

Eddie noticed that the gunman relaxed as 
soon as he had blown out the match. A clown, 
but he tended to business. 

They pulled up in an alley off State Street 
and it was Eddie's turn to laugh. They were 
parked in back of Whitey's Place ! 

"Barney took some extra trouble," he said. 
"I was on my way here anyhow." 

"For pleasure, maybe. But this ain't gonna 
be no pleasure. Go into the back room, Bar- 
ney's there. 

They patted him to make sure he didnt 
have a gun, then they opened the door and 
pushed him inside. They didn't come in with 
him. 

BARNEY had the room to himself. Whitey 
always let some of the boys play cards 
back here and drink. Eddie could just picture 



?4 



DOROTHY DUNN 



Barney throwing his weight around, telling 
Whitey to get those bums outta there so he 
could have the room for some private business. 
He might pay Whitey something for the 
money he'd lose on the room, and he might 
not — more likely not. Guys like Barney got 
what they wanted because everybody knew 
what would happen if they didn't shell out on 
demand. 

Eddie saw the gun on the table close to 
Barney's hand, but he didn't care. He was 
glad he was here, glad to be facing the man 
who must have killed Flora. 

"Hello, Barney. Nice night for murder." 

"Shut up!" 

"All right," said Eddie. "You talk." 

Barney picked up the gun. 

"This does my talking for me. Where's 
Flora?" 

"You ought to know," said Eddie. "You 
took her clothes out of the apartment." 

Barney slapped out with the gun butt, 
scraping Eddie's cheek. His thick neck was 
red and he was puffing like an angry bull. 
! "So the black boy did recognize me! But 
I didn't ask about that. I said, 'Where's 
Flora?' If you don't tell me, I'll choke it out 
of your skinny neck. Hurry up, Henderson! 
iYou knew she was leaving you for me. Now 
what did you do to her?" 

Barney's hot breath was right in Eddie's 
face and the look in the man's eyes was almost 
insane. 

"I didn't do anything to her," snapped 
Eddie. "And I didn't know she was leaving 
me. I don't think she was." 

"Where is she?" asked Barney again, his 
■shoulders slumping a little. 

"I don't know," said Eddie. 

Something was wrong. Eddie could feel 
that. Barney wasn't putting on an act. If he 
killed Flora, why should he keep asking where 
.she was? But if he hadn't killed her, why 
would he be so excited? You don't look the 
way he looked just because some dame you 
like doesn't show up for a few hours. 

"Henderson if you lie to me. I'll blow your 
j brains from here out to Michigan Boulevard! 
What's happened to Flora?" 

Eddie decided it was time to level off. 

"She's dead." 

He expected Barney to lash out at him 
again, but nothing like that happened. 

"It's hers then," he mumbled foolishly. "By 
God, I thought it was, but I had to make 
sure ! " 

Eddie's heart beat faster. 

"What's hers? What Barney?" 

"This." 

Barney slid a candy box across the table to 
Eddie. Inside was a hand. 

Eddie's stomach turned over and he flopped 
the lid down. 



"Some damn fool mailed that to me," said 
Barney in a flat, cold voice. "You wouldn't 
pull"? trick like that, would you, Henderson?" 

Eddie looked into the murderous eyes. 

"No, I wouldn't. But if you didn't kill her, 
Barney, we're looking for the same man. 
Somebody gave me a present today, too." 

"Yeah?" 

"Yeah t ne head." 

"My God!" said Barney. "You thought I 
did that?" 

"That's what I thought. You took her 
clothes out in a suitcase." 

"She left a message for me to pick them 
up. Said she was leaving you and I should 
get them. That's all there was to that. Hen- 
derson, if it's the last thing I do I'll find the 
lousy rat that did this' and tear his heart out 
with my bare hands ! Did you call the cops?" 

"No." 

"Good. We can do it quicker ourselves." 

"You mean pull together?" asked Eddie. 

"Have a drink, Henderson." 

Eddie tipped the bottle up to his lips. He 
believed Barney and said so with his eyes. 

The big man heaved a long sigh and dug 
at his cheeks with his meaty hand. 

"I loved Flora, Hnderson. That's a hell of 
a thing, but there it is. I loved her too damn 
much and somebody knew that ! " 

Eddie looked the other way. Barney Em- 
mett, the toughest man in Chicago, had tears 
in his eyes. 

It was four o'clock in the morning. The 
back room at Whitey's was filled with a blue 
haze of smoke and the damp malty odor of 
too much alcohol breath breathed into an al- 
most airless room. 

Cass Edwards and his three worthless 
friends were there being worked over by 
Barney. Eddie hated all four men. They had 
money, they were supposed to be from qual- 
ity. Cass Edwards, especially. Yet they hung 
around a place like Whitey's, drunk all the 
time, and they had often taken Flora off on 
their slumming trips. Eddie considered them 
the worst degenerates in the book. They 
weren't satisfied to go to hell themselves. 
They wanted to take other people along. 

"DARNEY slapped Cass again, his heavy 
** fingers leaving big red streaks on the 
weak face. 

" For God's sake, Barney ! " Cass whim- 
pered, "I've told you all I know." 

"You said you got a package this afternoon. 
Special delivery. What was in it?" Barney 
yelled. 

"I've told you. A hand — a human hand." 

"Flora's? Her right hand?" 

"I don't know," mumbled Cass. "It looked 
like hers." 

"And what did you do with it?" 



ONE LAST SONG FOR FLORA 



?S 



"I told you that, too. Your man is out look- 
ing for it now." 
"That doesn't matter! Tell me again!" 
Eddie wondered what kind of a torture 
method this was. Cass was desperate. 

"I threw it down a manhole," he repeated. 
"Oh Dearborn Street off Randolph." 
"Why?" 

"Oh, for God's sake, Barney, let up!" - 
"Why?" 
Cass broke then. 

"What the hell did I want to keep it for?" 
he yelled, "What good is a dead hand?" 

That did it. Barney jerked Cass up out of 
his chair and dragged him over to the table. 
He called to the clown, the gunman that had 
picked Eddie up in the sedan. 
"Hold this right here," Barney instructed. 
The clown looked as happy as a lark as 
he held the right wrist of Cass Edwards flat 
against the wood. 

Eddie got a little sick when he heard Cass 
scream with pain every time the gun butt came 
down. It was a relief when he fainted. Every 
bone in his right hand must have been crushed. 
"That'll show him," rasped Barney, breath- 
ing like an ox, "That'll show him what good 
is a hand ! " 

Eddie didn't like Cass Edwards, but he 
couldn't stand much more of this. Barney was 
letting his emotions take over, he was acting 
crazy. He hadn't got to be the biggest man 
in the Chicago rackets this way. 
Cass was crying like a baby. 
"Why don't you just kill me?" he screamed 
at Barney. He was hysterical. 

"I'm going to," said Barney in his coldest 
voice, "As soon as I check your story." 

Just then Alex, one of the gunmen, came 
in with a wet-looking cigar box. 

"Here it is, boss. I had one helluva 
time. ..." 

"Who asked about your troubles?" asked 
Barney, cutting him short. He took the box 
and looked inside. He closed it quickly. Then 
he placed it on the table beside the other cigar 
box that had been mailed to him. The bowl- 
ing bag was there, too. Barney hadn't lost 
any time sending to get it. 
."I told you it would be there," said Cass, 
rocking on the floor, cradling his broken hand, 
"Now, can I see a doctor?" 
"Yeah," said Barney. "You'll need one." 
The shot was a thundering blast in the back 
room, and the smell of cordite curled up into 
Eddie's nostrils along with the stale air. 

Barney put the gun back on the table with- 
out batting an eye. 

"He shoulda had more respect for Flora 
than to pick a sewer," he said. "Now we got 
to find the rest of her body. Alex ! " 
"Yes, boss?" 
"No you're too dumb. Monk, come here." 



"Yes, Barney?" The clown stepped up. 

"Check the morgue again, the police blotter. 
You can do all that through Daly. I want that 
torso ! Flora's going to have a decent funeral 
in a casket. It's not right. ..." 

He broke off, knowing he was giving out 
with too much sentiment. Monk went out. 

"You got any ideas, Henderson? Any other 
guys we can pick up who might know some- 
thing? What about that janitor?" 

"Not a chance," said Eddie, thinking of 
Albert's round, gentle face. "Flora left the 
house alive. We know that. You've traced her 
movements as far as Whitey's, or almost." 

"Yeah," said Barney thoughtfully. He 
took a long drink, draining the bottle. "The 
clerk in die drug store saw her at eleven 
o'clock this morning, and it was just a little 
after noon time that she was killed. Had to 
be. The package was delivered to me by four." 

Eddie almost had a thought right then, but 
it didn't quite come clear. 

"I'd like a drink," he said suddenly. "My 
head feels a little foggy." 

"Okay," said Barney. "Go get a couple of 
bottles, Henderson. And Alex! Clear out 
this mess of society trash. No wonder we 
can't think straight." 

"All of 'em, boss?" 

"Hell, yes ! They saw me trigger their pal, 
didn't they ? An automobile accident ought to 
do it. You can fix that up, dumb as you are." 

I?DDIE left the room in a hurry. He was 
scared now. Scared all the way down to 
his heels and sicker inside than he'd ever been 
in his life. Barney wasn't human. He was 
some kind of monster, operating the deadly 
machinery of murder the way an ordinary 
business man does a day's work. He could 
see why people didn't try to cross Barney, 
why they couldn't He could even understand 
why the cops couldn't touch him. Nobody 
could touch him and live ! 

Eddie should have gone to the cops in the 
beginning. He knew that now. He'd been a 
damn fool to let Barney take over the job of 
finding Flora's killer. The man was a maniac, 
and Eddie would have felt a lot safer in the 
death house than he felt right now. 

Whitey was leaning on the bar, sulking. 

"Barney wants two bottles," said Eddie. 

Whitey got them down. 

"He say anything about paying for them?" 

"No," said Eddie. 

"He never pays!" moaned Whitey. "He 
laps up more of my profit. ..." 

Eddie got out his wallet. 

"Never mind, kid," said Whitey. "And 
here. Take a slugger with me. I'm getting 
tired of Dick Smithing out here. Barney's ■ 
orders ! I can't even see what's going on in 
my own back room. Sounds like torture." ; 



76 



DOROTHY DUNN 



"It's awful," gulped Eddie, sliding his glass 
back for more. Then all of a sudden it hit 
him ! The thought he'd almost had. 

"Whitey," he said, "you're a damn liar!" 

"What do you mean, kid?" 

"About Flora. You said she was in here 
at four o'clock. She couldn't have been. She 
was dead then ! " 

Whitey's face didn't change its expression. 

"Hell, Eddie. I'm sorry about that," he 
whispered, "Barney made me promise to say 
that. He said he'd kill me if I didn't. I 
thought then that something had happened 
to Flora that he was trying to cover up, but 
you know how it is, Eddie. You don't dare 
cross Barney. Why, just look at what he's 
done to my business by coming in here ! He's 
poison to have around a place. People get 
scared off. And what can I do about it?" 

Eddie was getting it now. Prize chump. 
That's what he had been. Prize idiot. 

"Barney killed Flora?" 

"Who else, Eddie ? I've got a gun back here 
if you want it, kid." 

"Thanks," said Eddie. "Hand it over." 

Whitey obliged with a smile. The first smile 
that Eddie had seen on his face for months. 

Eddie tucked it in his pocket and picked 
up the bottles. 

"Call the cops, will you, Whitey? It's time. 
We'll have the case all finished by the time 
they get here." 

"Sure, Eddie." Whitey made for the phone. 

Barney was alone in the back room again. 
His men had gone out the back way with 
Cass Edwards and his pals. 

"Took you long enough," complained Bar- 
ney, reaching for the bottles. 

"Can that line," said Eddie. 
■ Barney didn't get riled. He looked a little 
tired. Eddie took the bottle he passed over 
and asked casually: "Say, Barney. Who told 
you that Flora was leaving me? Who gave 
you that message to pick up her clothes?" 

"Whitey." 

"That's what I thought," said Eddie, his 
mouth grim. "Whitey killed Flora!" 

Barney just sat there. "You sure?" 

'<Yeah," said Eddie. "I'm sure. You didn't 
tell him to lie to me about Flora being in 
here at four o'clock, did you?" 

"I didn't tell him anything." 

"Neither did Flora," said Eddie. "Flora 
didn't leave that message for your Whitey 
made it up. He wanted to place you at my 
apartment with a suitcase, just in case some- 
thing went wrong with his other frame." 

Barney was taking it easy in a slow burn. 

"But why should Whitey kill Flora?" 

"Because of you," said Eddie. "He couldn't 
get rid of you without getting rid of Flora. 
He hates you, Barney." 



"Why?" 

"Because you're hurting his business. 
Yoifre ruining it. He tried to play it smart 
because he was afraid to cross you openly. He 
tried to drive you off your nut by sending you 
a piece of his hate in a cigar box. Then he 
pulled me into it and Cass Edwards, thinking 
one of us might polish you off for him. He 
knew how to hit you where it hurt the most. 
He knew how you felt about Flora. And he 
didn't think I'd care. He thought Flora just 
caused me a lot of grief." 

Barney's eyes were like glass now. 

"But you did care, didn't you, Henderson? 
You wanted to get the man who killed 
Flora?" 

"That's right, Barney. I did care. Not 
as much as you maybe. But you don't forget 
Flora very easy once she gets under your 
skin." 

Eddie pulled out the gun. 

"Whitey gave me this to use on you, 
Barney." 

"The hell you say! Leave it here, Hender- 
son," he said, picking up his own gun that had 
already killed Cass Edwards. "This one's on 
me!" 

They went outside. Whitey wasn't behind 
the bar. But they heard his footsteps beating 
it down the cellar stairs, and they heard the 
siren out in the street. Then the cops rushed 
through the front door. 

Barney raced for the cellar and Eddie 
stayed upstairs, listening to the shots and to 
Barney's shouted curses. Five shots. One 
wasn't enough for the rat that killed Flora. 
Barney let him have five shots in succession ! 

The policeman stopped at the head of the 
stairs beside Eddie. 

Eddie caught his arm and whispered to him : 
"Barney Emmett is down there! You've 
caught him red-hand committing a murder." 

The cop's face went white. 

"You can take him," said Eddie. "He just 
emptied his clip. One shot into Cass Edwards, 
five into Whitey!" 

rPHEY took him. Barney Emmett, the terror 
of Chicago, was captured without a single 
shot being fired. Eddie went down into the 
cellar with them and Barney didn't seem to 
be sore at all. He certainly had been a sucker 
for. Flora. All he said was: "Well, Hender- 
son, we nailed the rat that got her!" 

The right rat, too. There was no doubt 
about that. They found the torso down there, 
buried in a shallow grave. And they found a 
bowling ball that didn't have any bag to go 
with it. 

And Barney Emmett? Eddie felt a little 
bit bad about playing him such a dirty trick. 
But hell, he told himself, Barney had it com- 
ing if anybody did. 



BLIND DATE WITH 
THE DEVIL 



By 
JOHN BENDER 




The water hit her with a 
tremendous, icy blow. 



What mad impulse made lovely 
Marion Carter seek so desperately 
the death which, so she believed, 
would end the curse of murder 
hanging like a sword above her 
friends and kinsmen? 



SHE came alert abruptly, not knowing 
what had awakened her, her eyes wide 
and searching in the darkness. For long 
moments she lay, staring intently at the lighter 
patch of darkness which was the ceiling, then 
she turned slowly to face the clock beside her 
bed. She could hear its rhythmic ticking, but 
could not see the time. 

The movement, slight as it was, tumbled 
her brain into the cloying whirlpool, and she 
-thought with a quick despair, "No. . . !" 

She buried her face in the pillow, afraid, 
sobbing slightly and the sickness in her re- 
lented. But the clock began ticking more and 
more stridently. Her fear grew less. She flung 
back the covers and pushed her legs out over 
tiie floor. 

Her eyes, she found, could now distinguish 
more clearly the outlines of the room, though 
she thought vaguely that she could discern a 
light fog touching everything. All at once the 
heat of the narrow bedroom clamped down on 
her, and she struggled into her robe, shaking 
her long black hair back over the collar. 

From far off, as in a dream, she heard the 
low, long, mournful note of the fog horn on 
the Point. She stood there, shivering despite 
the first few flecks of perspiration that beaded 
her upper lip. And as the note of the fog horn 

71 



78 



JOHN BENDER 



slipped into the heavy silence of the night, she 
knew what she must do. . . . 

The clock ticked slowly, monotonously. And 
yet it screamed her thought: 

Destroy yourself . . . destroy yourself . . . 
destroy yourself! 

She laughed silently, lips bared wolfishly 
over her teeth. If she were very silent, oh so 
very silent, she could get down the long stairs, 
she could race across the hill to the little 
bridge. In grateful anticipation she could see 
even now the dark and friendly waters of the 
river beckoning to her. . . . 

It will be nice and cool and friendly. It will 
cloak me in the soft secret comfort that I seek. 

She went to the door. Her head felt lighter 
than she had even known it ; her stomach flut- 
tered slightly. She opened the door and stepped 
outside into the long-carpeted, dimly-lit corri- 
dor, casting an apprehensive glance in both 
directions. No one. Thank God, she thought. 
There'll be no one to stop me this time ! 

As she hurried along the corridor and down 
the winding stairs she recalled how Jan and 
Roger had heard her the last time; she saw 
again in her mind the flight along the narrow 
road to the bridge where she had run till she 
thought her heart would burst, trying to get 
away from Roger's swift pursuit. He'd caught 
her, though; then there had been the burning 
humiliation of being dragged back, a prisoner 
in her own house ; and the further humiliation 
of being sick, so dreadfully, horribly, animal 
sick. . . . 

The cold draft of air smashed her in the 
face as she opened the big front door. Quickly 
she hurried outside and closed the door softly 
behind her. 

Free! Free! 

One slender hand pushed the long dark hair 
back off her eyes. Catching her robe in the 
other, she ran swiftly across the walk, unmind- 
ful of the cold stone on her bare feet. In just 
a few moments now, she would be at the river, 
the lovely lonely river that would shelter her 
forever. 

Her bare feet made a faint spattering sound 
when she raced through the gravel driveway 
to the road. Then she was outside on the high- 
way. Fifty yards away, shimmering like pale 
silver, was the river — to freedom. 

No one must stop me now! No one! 

She reached the bridge and caught herself, 
breathing hard. And now that she had stopped 
running, the hands began to clutch and claw 
at her stomach. She feared that she would be 
sick again, and hastened to the railing, where 
she leaned for a moment, exhausted, her head 
spinning dizzily. But, gradually, the rushing 
water beneath her took on clarity; she could 
make out the small ripples that caught the 
moon and winked it back at her in a thousand 
little sparkles. 



She slipped one long leg over the narrow 
iron railing, pulled herself to a sitting posi- 
tion^and put both feet on the small ledge on 
the far side. She took one long, final breath; 
she released her hold on the railing. 

The water hit her with a tremendous, icy 
blow. She felt herself strugging for support 
it couldn't give. Then all was a bottomless 
darkness. 

"PJ^ASY does it/' someone said. 

■" She sputtered and choked, then sneezed 
violently. 

The man, bending down over her, took the 
glass away and put it on a small table beside 
the bed. 

He was big and clad in tobacco-brown tweed 
slacks and a gay plaid shirt. When he stepped 
away she saw that his hair and his eyes were 
brown. For the rest, he was tall and spare, 
with broad shoulders and a tan, lean face. The 
sleeves of his shirt were rolled to the elbows; 
his shirt was open at the throat. "His hair 
seemed freshly wet. It dropped in small tight 
ringlets on his tan forehead. 

His smile was warm and friendly. She felt 
no fear at being here with him. She felt very 
little of anything, not even relief. Without a 
word she looked about the room — at the mas- 
culine, severe furnishings, at the heavy-quilted 
coverlet that was tucked up to her chin. She 
touched her hands against her nakedness, and 
the slight movements brought a further sting- 
ing sensation to her nose. She sneezed again. 

"Good way to catch cold," the brown young 
man said. "This isn't the time of year for 
moonlight dips." 

"Why — " she started. The word loosed a 
flood of tears. She turned her dark head to 
the clean, crisp-smelling pillow, startled that 
she should be crying. 

"Get rid of it," he said. "All of it. I'll be 
back later." 

When he returned, she'd got control of her- 
self. She felt a trifle dizzy, but the queerness 
was gone from her stomach and her nose. 

"Perhaps you'd better sleep," he said. 
"Would you like to, Miss — " 

She didn't supply the name. But she real- 
ized dully that she would have to, sooner or 
later. He would be another one. . . . Why, oh 
why, must all these people intrude upon her. 
Why couldn't they let her alone? 

"Miss — " he asked again. 

She said, "Carter. Marion Carter," and 
watched for flares of recognition to light with- 
in his eyes. But his tanned, not unhandsome 
face did not change. The name was not 
familiar to him and she was indeed quite 
thankful. 

"You — you haven't told anyone, have you?" 
she asked. 

"About what ?" His grin was wide and free. 



BLIND DATE WITH THE DEVIL 



79 



"About a silly girl who went swimming at this 
time of year?" 

She found the tug upon her lips was a 
smile. He'd dropped the subject so neatly and 
emphatically. Conversation was almost easy. 
"Is this your house?" she asked. 

"Lock, stock and mortgage," he told her. 
"No one will bother you— I'll see to that. 
After you're rested, I'll drive you home. A 
good night's sleep will do wonders for you." 

He went away, and she listened to his fading 
footsteps outside. She looked around the room 
once again. But she could not keep her mind 
busy enough — she had to think of the bridge 
and the cool, swift-flowing river. He must 
have seen her and jumped in after her. Ab- 
ruptly she shuddered, recalling the water 
sweeping over her. 

Why, why, she asked the ceiling, must she 
be touched by death ? She was not always in- 
tent on it — only at occasional moments. Why ? 
Oh, God, why ? What sinister force took con- 
trol of her mind and body, and in those awful 
moments made her want to destroy herself? 
Now, as once before, she was appalled by what 
she had almost done. 

For she knew she did not really want to die. 
She'd had enough of it, with Harry's death. 

Abruptly she sat up in the strange bed, the 
sudden thought setting her heart to a thun- 
derous pounding: 

Had she killed Harry ? 

THE young man's name was Duncan Mac- 
Clure — even though he spoke without a 
burr. He was twenty-seven, an artist when he 
needed money, and a year or so ago had been 
chasing Jap Zeros in a stubby Gruman out 
over the blue Pacific. He had been discharged 
before the war was finished, without benefit of 
points, for there were in him odd pieces of 
Japanese-made metal that caused peculiar 
pains. Recently, though, the doctors had 
prospected with success and found the alien 
lode, so that within a month or so he would 
he fit and well again, ready to pick up his 
brush and palette with more result than he had 
in the recent past. 

"And that," he said as they drove toward 
Idlewood, "brings you up to date on me. Ex- 
cept for the little house. A friend of a friend 
of a friend got it for me." 

"You were lucky," Marion said. She was 
glad to talk of simple things like wars and 
housing situations in the clear and dripping 
morning sunlight, for she didn't have to go too 
far into her mind to get the necessary thoughts 
and words. Her sentences came as easily as 
her clothes had come, when this strange 
young man had pointed to a closet and told 
her to use what she wanted. What hTd he 
said? Oh, yes. " Some of the things belong to 
my sister — some were left by models. . . ." 



Marion drew in great lungfuls of the fresh 
crisp Connecticut morning. It was so good to 
be alive — 

But with that thought, the memory of last 
night and all its horror returned, clamping her 
with its cold wet hand. It gripped her during 
the rest of the ride. When the coupe pulled 
up the long gravel driveway of Idlewood, she 
found it almost impossible to stop trembling. 

She was afraid. . . . The terror she asso- 
ciated with this rambling country mansion re- 
turned with a strange insistence. She was 
afraid of Jan and Roger and Mr. Billing. It 
all had to do with the last time, when she'd 
overheard Roger — Jan's recently-returned 
young man — saying that the shock of Harry's 
death was too great a blow for Marion's mind 
to handle. . . . 

As they stopped in front of the house, the 
front door opened and a girl came out to stand 
on the short flight of stone steps. She bent 
her blonde head forward, peering into the car. 
Seeing Marion, she came quickly down the 
steps, her shapely legs flashing in the sun- 
light. 

"Marion!" she cried. "Oh, Marion, dearl 
I'm so glad you're all right. We were so wor- 
ried about you!" 

They got out of the car. Though she shiv» 
ered, Marion allowed her sister to embrace 
her for a moment before she had to break 
away. Janis was an impressionable young 
girl, three years Marion's junior, and had 
always looked to her sister for guidance since 
the death of their parents when they were little 
girls. 

After she had disentangled herself from her 
sister's embrace, Marion introduced Mac. 
"Mr. MacClure is almost a neighbor, Janis. 
He — he lives over in that little cottage near 
the water." 

"How nice," Janis said. She really was not 
interested in him, and Marion felt embar- 
rassed. But Duncan did not seem to mind in 
the least. 

"Wherever did you go last night, Marion? 
Mr. Billing and Roger and I didn't know what 
to think. We called the police, but they said 
they never investigate a missing person case 
until at least twenty-four hours go by. Marion, 
you frightened us so. Where — " 

"Yes, indeed, young lady. What's the mean- 
ing of scaring us out of our wits ? You ought 
to be spanked!" There was laughter, or the 
hint of it, at least, in Joseph Billing's boom- 
ing voice. He was a huge man, given to loud 
ties, but his benevolent ogreish manner did 
not fool Marion for an instant. He was an- 
other one of them. He'd been Harry's lawyer ; 
he was staying here now to settle the estate. 
She had known him since she was quite a 
small child. 

Nervously, she looked to Duncan, a mute 



80 



JOHN BENDER 



pleading in her eyes for him not to reveal 
what had happened. 

He grinned quickly. She heard Duncan say, 
"Why, I don't know what you folks are rais- 
ing such a ruckus about. Marion and I went 
down to New York last night and did the town 
up properly. I guess neither of us thought 
about phoning. My, fault." 

She heard the quick intake of breath, saw 
Janis looking at her with horror on her pretty, 
child-like face. Marion felt suddenly weak;, 
the fearful sickness threatened to return. She 
looked at the queer, frozen expression Duncan 
wore as he saw the effect of his words on these 
people and the man who had come out of the 
big house. 

"Really, Marion," said Roger Southern, 
hurrying past the others across the flagstones 
to her, "you should have known better!" 

Janis caught her fiance's hand. She seemed 
to cling to him for strength which Duncan's 
words had stolen from her. 

"That was pretty bad taste, Marion," she 
said. She turned, still holding Roger's hand 
and started for the house. 

"In a minute, dear," said Rogers, and took 
Marion's arm solicitously. "Come along, now. 
We'll get you to bed." 

Marion turned to Duncan. His face told her 
that he was struggling to understand. She felt 
a momentary twinge of pity, then again the 
inner fear. She did not want to say what she 
had to say, but perhaps it was best, to tell him 
now and get him out of her mixed-up life. She 
didn't know; she didn't know. If only she 
could escape these scenes, these prying peo- 
ple. . . . 

"I should have — told you," she said testily 
to him. Why did she hope suddenly that he, 
he alone, would understand and help her? 
"... you see, Duncan, it was not* the first 
time — last night. It happened before — the day 
that Harry was killed. He was my step-father. 
He was buried yesterday. ..." 

"I'm sorry," Duncan said. "If I'd known — " 

"Of course, of course," said Roger. "But as 
Miss Carter's doctor, I'd suggest we all get 
inside, out of this treacherous weather." 

The house was warmer, but the smell of 
death, the smell of flowers and an aged musti- 
ness, clung everywhere. Marion wanted only 
to be alone, away from these people. She felt 
suddenly very tired, even though she had slept 
well in Duncan's tiny, hat-box of a house. . . . 

Last night. . . . Could she ever forget that 
nightmare? Or — did she really want to for- 
get it? At least when she was like last night 
there were no silly scenes like the one just 
acted out. 

nT"HE queer little man with the funny brown 
■*■ shoes sat in a chair in the corner of the hall- 
way. He rose as they came toward him and 



shuffled his battered hat quite foolishly in his 
hands. 

He peered owlishly at Marion. "Back, eh? 
Good thing. " He had a gold-filled smile which 
did nothing for his personality. "Had these 
folks mighty worried, Miss Carter." 

When no one introduced him, he took care 
of it himself: "I'm Hamilton Pine, Police De- 
partment," and flashed a badge. 

"Now, see here, Pine," Roger Southern 
said. 

"Won't take a moment, Doctor," he said. 
"When your folks called up last night, the sta- 
tion police didn't pay much attention to the 
call. But I figured I'd drop out here early this 
morning just in case. You know, Miss Carter, 
there's still a few things we'd like to clear up 
about Mr. Johnson's death. And we'd like to 
know that you're available for questioning — " 

"There's nothing to clear up !" Joseph Bill- 
ing inserted his hugeness between Marion and 
the little detective. "The coroner's inquiry 
determined it was an accidental death." 

Pine nodded. "So I heard. But I still got 
my opinions, and the cornor isn't in charge of 
Homicide. Harry Johnson was shot to death 
out in the woods. No witnesses. All we find 
is a gun beside him. Anybody — even a woman 
— could have plucked him off." 

"Dammit, man, are you suggesting — " 

"Look," said Pine, "it's common gossip that 
this Miss Carter has no great love for her step- 
father since that time he breaks up her ro- 
mance with that flyer fellow, last year. And 
Miss Carter is also inclined to — er — " He 
looked hard, searchingly at Marion — "go a 
little out of her head at time." 

"Pine, I'll have your badge for libel!" Bill- 
ing roared. 

Marion looked from the little man to Dun- 
can, who was standing in the doorway, his 
lean face splashed with shadows. There were 
shadows in his eyes, too, she thought, as he 
regarded her silently. 

The detective was still grinning when he 
walked to the door, nodded at no one in par- 
ticular, and sauntered out. 

Duncan said, "Perhaps — perhaps it would 
be best if I called another time, Marion. I'll 
look in on you in a day or so," and quickly 
vanished from the doorway. 

Marion heard the roar of his car's motor 
in the drive. She was sure that she had seen 
him for the last time. . . . 

Bright and early on the following morning, 
Duncan MacClure proved her wrong; he ar- 
rived with a bunch of wild flowers he'd picked 
for her. And the next day, when the butler 
announced him, Marion took a few minutes to 
dab her cheeks and brighten her lips with lip- 
stick. Duncan was gay and friendly and made 
her feel so much better that she was amazed. 

The third day he phoned, suggesting that 



BLIND DATE WITH THE DEVIL 



81 



she go riding with him. Marion found herself 
eager for his company— to get away from the 
house. The only relief throughout the days 
was when she saw Duncan. Idlewood had come 
to be unbearable, with its austere loneliness 
and whispering shadows that hovered every- 
where. She didn't dare let her fears take shape 
in her mind, but the battle was growing into 
too great a one for her to carry alone. 

She was ready a full ten minutes before 
Duncan arrived. In the car, he said : 

"I've been doing a little snooping, Marion, 
and she felt the surge of fear in her breast 
"I'm sure I can help you," he went on. it 
onlv you'll let me." 

"Really," she pleaded. "There's nothing 
you can do — " . , 

"There must be!" His vehemence almost 
took them off the road. "No girl as young and 
pretty as you goes around trying to kick her 
life away. Is it a man?" he asked. 

Yes, she thought, it is a man. A man nmnea 
Harry Johnson. He is dead, and maybe I 
Med Mm. I don't know, I don't know. Dont 
draa it out into the open, Duncan, please. 

She caught herself in time "No, it s not a 
man, Duncan. I don't know why I— 

"But there must be a reason why youve 
tried twice to kill yourself, Marion. 

They were in the village now, the quiet, 
quaint old New England village, with its 
funny, scattered shops and silent people. He 
■ stopped the car, in front of a combination 
blacksmith shop and garage. "Why dont you 
try telling me about it?" 

Suddenly she found herself talking: 
"I don't know how to describe it, Duncan. 
It's as if there were a voice inside of me, 
telling me to destroy myself. Both times I ve 
been alone, at night. I wake up, only it s as if 
I'm still asleep and dreaming. A nightmare. 
There's a haze, like a faint fog— it suffocates 
me Everything and everyone is too much to 
bear— I want to get away from the death- 
smelling house, from my room, from Jan and 
Roger and Mr. Billing. I'm— I'm afraid of 
them . . . This voice tells me that the river is 
i my only friend and that I should go there It s 
! so awfully hard to think, Duncan. There s 
; just this voice — which is not a voice, really, 
i I know— and the queer feeling in the pit of 
my stomach, as if I'm going to be dreadfully 
sick" Her voice was less controlled; she 
found the sobs were crowding into the words. 
"But why?" he asked. "Why? Did Harry s 
death mean so much to you?" 

"It was a shock. I respected him, and hed 

been awfully good to Janis, and me. Hed 

saved me from making a fool of myself over 

; some man who was infatuated with my 

1 money—" 

"I've talked with Pine. He seems to think 
that was why you hated Harry Johnson." 



"But I didn't hate him," she sobbed. 

SHE stopped, feeling peculiarly uneasy. Her 
stomach fluttered slightly; her nostrils 
quivered against the odor which was sicken- 
in£f her. 

"Ugh !" She sniffed. "That smell. . . . Lef s 
get away from here, Duncan. I can't stand 
it— reminds me of the warm, suffocating odor 
the nights when. ..." 

He sniffed, too, then looked into the black- 
smith shop. A drift of the odor moved lazily 
on the faint breeze. "He must be having 
trouble with his draft in there. You're right, 
it is awful." - , . .. 

They drove back to Idlewood m silence, 
where Janis, Roger and Mr. Billings were 
having tea. Duncan declined an invitation to 
join them, but finally promised to come to 
dinner that evening. . . 

Marion walked to the door with him, not 
wanting him to go. She knew she'd be afraid 
without him. She was hardly prepared for 
the way he wrapped his strong, tweed clad 
arm around her and drew her close. His lips 
searched briefly, found hers, and was gone. 
She was more upset by Duncan's quick em- 
brace than she had been by his telling her 
that he had been asking questions in the vil- 
lage. And she was far from happy that Jams 
had insisted he come back for dinner. 

Janis stopped at her room that night, to 
see if she were ready to go down for dinner. 
Marion hadn't dressed. She was lying across 
her bed, clad in her faded blue bathrobe. 

"Really, Marion!" Janis said. "I thought 
you'd be all excited about tonight. ' 

Marion closed her eyes tightly, to keep 
her fear from showing. "I'm not coming 
down. I don't want—" 

"But darling, you must!" Her younger 
sister's voice held the softest note of sympathy. 
"I wouldn't have invited him—" 

"Stop it, Jan ! I don't want to see him, do 
you hear !" She flung her face into the pro- 
tective shadows of the pillow, sobbing. 

Janis' hand found her shoulder, comforting- 
ly. "Marion, you can't make me believe what 
you're saying." 

"Jan, oh, Jan," Marion sobbed. "I can't see 
him again." 

"But, darling, why? 

"You must know," Marion said fiercely. _ A 
mirthless smile became a snarl upon her lips. 
"How can I think of loving anyone? Or 
letting anyone love me? I'm not a normal 
young woman— I'm Marion Carter, dont you 
remember? The girl the police think killed 
her step-father !" 
"But—" 

"No, let me finish." She grew calmer now, 
but since she had started talking, she was no 
longer afraid to say what she had to say. 



62 



JOHN BENDER 



"Twice I've tried to kill myself — you know 
that. Well, what assurance do I have that I 
won't try to do it again ? How do I know I — " 
Her eyes grew larger at the sudden contem- 
plation which rose to plague her — "How do 
I know that one of these strange spells won't 
come over me, and make me kill, not myself — 
but Duncan. Or you ... or Roger — " 
_ "Stop it, Marion ! Stop it !" Her younger 
sister's hand lashed out and caught her across 
the face, leaving the reddened imprint of her 
fingers on the whiteness of the skin. "You're 
not going to help yourself like this! You're 
not going to kill anyone. Do you hear me?" 

Tenderly, Janis placed her arm around her 
sister's shoulder. "You've got to snap out 
of it. Come on, now. Be a good girl ..." 

Marion felt weak. Spent by her outburst, 
she meekly found herself submitting, when 
Janis helped her dress. But even then, she 
felt a chilling trepidation. How long had it 
been now since she had tried to kill — 

She tried to banish the thought. 

When she was just about to leave, Mary, 
the maid, came in to lay a few chunks of coal 
beside the fireplace. 

"I'll just take the chill off your room, Miss 
Marion," the maid said. 

Marion thanked her and went on down- 
stairs. She was just in time to meet Duncan, 
arriving. His mouth opened in frank ad- 
miration of her loveliness; he whistled softly. 

He grinned, then, and said something like, 
"Hubba, hubba," she thought. He came for- 
ward as if to take her in his arms. 

The others were in the library, sleek and 
comfortable-looking in their evening clothes. 
Roger, impeccable as ever, wore a splash of 
colored, lapel decorations he'd acquired in 
the war. Drinks were served, and Marion 
found Duncan watching her queerly. 

She felt uncomfortable as if something were 
going to happen at any moment. 

Was this to be another night of horror . . . ? 

Just after dinner, when they were having 
their coffee and liquer, Duncan exploded the 
bombshell. He held aloft his tiny glass. 

"A toast," he told the others gaily. He 
looked at Marion for a moment, the ghost of 
a smile in his eyes. His glass dipped to her in 
a salute. "To the future Mrs. Duncan Mac- 
Clurel" 

HPHERE was a stir of excitement around the 
■*■ room. Marion looked with startled eyes at 
the faces there; they were looking to her for 
confirmation. She saw Duncan's glance, eager, 
strangely, mutely pleading, and again the 
surge of uneasiness filled her. 

_ "How nice," Janis said finally. "How very 
nice. She beamed from her sister to Duncan. 
"Congratulations !" 
Then everyone babbled. She tried to speak 



into the small sea of sound, but her voice was 
swept away by Duncan's next speech. 

"We intended to keep it a secret for a while 
longer, but—" He grinned at them, though 
the glance he gave Marion was secretive, 
bidding her not to interrupt. His hand found 
hers, squeezed it hard. "Well, fact of the 
matter is, I'll be leaving here shortly and 
taking Marion with me — " 

"Leaving?" Roger asked. "Where to?" 

"I've got a commission to do some murals 
in San Francisco." 

Billing nodded heavily. "But need you two 
just pack off — " 

"It's quite necessary," Duncan said firmly. 
"It'll take a good six months to do the work." 
He drew Marion to him, briefly, then made 
apologies to the others for his sudden haste 
in leaving. In the hall, he stopped her ques- 
tions with a softly-laid finger on her lips. 

"I know I was rather abrupt, but you've 
got to believe me. I love you. I want you to 
marry me." He grinned his pleasant, lop- 
sided grin. "Don't rush into it — if you want 
time to think about it. . . . I — I couldn't resist 
the chance to be dramatic in there — " 

"But Duncan, you don't know me — you 
don't know what it's like for me — " 

"I know this," he said firmly. He kissed 
her. 

"See what I mean ?" he said. 

Downstairs the clock struck three, in the 
solemn booming notes that tore through her, 
and she knew with one part of her mind that 
she had been in bed for four hours now. She 
had felt surprisingly fine after Duncan had 
gone; she had gone to bed far happier than 
she had been anytime since Harry had died. . . 

Had she slept, she wondered. She had no 
recollection of a lapse of time, or the unaware- 
ness that usually is associated with sleep. In 
the darkness she had lain, listening despite 
herself to the sounds the old house made, to 
the creaking which told her that the house 
was settling for the night. 

Am I alone, she wondered. . . . 

The question thrilled her immensely. It be- 
came suddenly important that she find out if 
there was anyone else in the big house. Hurry, 
she thought, / must hurry or they will find 
me and put me back in bed, and Roger will be 
called, and he will give me a sleeping pill. 

Quickly she flung the covers away, and 
leaped out onto the thickly-carpeted floor. She 
moved quickly and lithely — unaware of her 
strange beauty in the pale moonlight which 
seeped into a corner of the room. Perhaps two 
or three steps from the bed she stumbled but 
did not fall. 

She remembered, only vaguely, the last 
time — the time when she had almost suc- 
ceeded. She remembered, but with a thick, 
furry edge upon her thoughts, so that it was 



BLIND DATE WITH THE DEVIL 



83 



less a memory than an instinct. Who had 
stopped her . . . ? 

Crossing the room, she caught faint sight 
of herself in the full-length mirror. For a 
moment, a wave of weakness assailed her, and 
she stood wavering in the darkness over near 
the wall. On her quivering legs, she made 
for the door, the first wave of sickness clutch- 
ing at her. No, she thought, / must not get 
sick ! 

She turned the knob and stepped outside 
into the corridor. There were no sounds in 
the house. The long, carpeted corridor which 
led to the staircase wore not a light. 

// only I don't get sick. . . . 

Moving slowly,, with almost exaggerated 
physical attempts at silence, she reached the 
stairs. It was growing clearer in her mind, 
despite the nausea; she knew exactly what 
she had to do, now. Outside, she could race 
to the river. Even now she could see the 
moonlight on the bridge and the water — the 
cool, inviting water. 

Within a minute she had reached the front 
door and was out through it. The night was 
not very cold, but with the sickness in her she 
felt a chill. Her heart was racing wildly, and 
a reckless urgency made her move more quick- 
ly. She felt the sharp ground. 

She was free ! Free at last ! 

"Marion I" 

The voice chased her, then she heard the 
footsteps pounding behind. A pair of arms 
clamped about her; despite her struggles she 
could not break free. 

"Marion ! Stop it !" the voice commanded. 

She struggled all the more, now. She must 
get to the river. She must ! 

The hold on her relaxed momentarily. She 
tried to twist away, but another person had 
come up to hold her. 

"Take care of her," she heard. "I'll get 
him." The voice moved away. "Bring her 
inside. . . ." 

Against the rising sickness in her she was 
helpless. She could fight no longer; quite 
suddenly things began to whirl, and a cloak 
of sudden darkness smothered her. 

THERE was a faint slap, slap noise — a hand 
patting her cheek, Marion realized. She 
tried to bring her eyes into focus and gradually 
she was able to make out the figure of Janis 
sitting next to the couch on which she lay. 

As from a distance Marion heard Duncan's 
voice : 

"So that's how it was. He used Adamsite 
gas, which he picked up while he was still 
in the Army. It's a well known fact that 
Adamsite will cause a temporary mental de- 
pression, as well as a sickness physically, and 
since it smells just like coal gas, no one would 



ever guess that it was present. Marion was 
upset over Harry Johnson's death; it worked 
making her try to commit suicide." 

Hamilton Pine, who stood at the far end 
of the room with Mr. Billings, said slowly : 

"Then you think that's how Johnson was 
killed, too?" 

"Probably," Duncan told him. "But I'm 
only guessing there. I know he used it on 
Marion. We caught him trying to get that gas 
cartridge out of Marion's fireplace ! " 

"It was unbelievable, at first," Billings said. 

Pine nodded slowly. "A new one on me." 

"It wasn't so very unusual," Duncan said. 
"He saw a shortcut to a fortune by marrying 
Janis. But he had to kill Johnson and then 
get rid of Marion, so that Janis would in- 
herit. ... I just speeded things up a little 
tonight by saying that Marion and I were 
going to be married — which would have put 
another person in his way, you see. So he 
had to act fast !" 

Fully conscious now Marion realized they 
had been talking about Roger ! She looked at 
Janis, saw the well of tears in her sister's 
eyes, saw a battered Roger Southern sprawled 
in a chair where Pine could watch him. 

"Marion!" Duncan had turned to her. 

Things were spinning in her head. Roger— 
a murderer ! Poor Janis. . . . And from 
somewhere came the horrible knowledge that 
once again she, too, was alone — that Duncan's 
telling her he loved her was all part of the 
weird affair. No wonder he'd made all that 
show of affection: he'd been using her as a 
bait in his trap ! 

"Well, I've got it all straight, I think," said 
Pine, nodding dubiously. To Roger he said, 
"Okay, bo, let's go — before I let Mr. Mac- 
Clure work on you some more!" 

The little detective herded hir prisoner out. 
Then Janis and Billing left the room. 

Kneeling beside Marion, Duncan said soft- 
ly, "We had a doctor with us too. He says 
you'll be all right, Marion. He's gone to get 
a car to take you to the hospital." He paused. 
"I'm sorry that Pine and I couldn't have 
cooked up anything better — " 

"You were waiting outside tonight," she 
said dully, feeling that she must say some- 
thing to hide her aching heart. 

"Yes, darling." 

Darling? Was it just a word? 

Something must have told him what was 
going on inside of her. 

"Darling," he said again, this time much 
more reverently. "A few days — a week at the 
most — and you'll be fit as a fiddle." He grin- 
ned, and touched her shoulder tenderly. "I'll 
need that much time, won't I, to arrange for 
the license and things. . . ." 



DEAD MEN 



A Fast-Paced Novelette of 
Midnight Murder 




84 



lTo the gilded playboys — and playgals — the Colony Plaza 
offered the height of luxury. But to one man, that fabulous 
chrome-and- plush hostelry was a maze of sheer terror, with 
a corpse for every corridor, and at the last dead end — his 
own lifeless body! 



DON'T BLEED . 



WILLIAM ROUGH 




He whirled, snatched the razor off the 
shelf, flicked it open. 



CHAPTER ONE 

Trail of the Hunted 



SNIPS McGLYNN spotted Garvey, one of 
the house dicks, and jolly Mr. Frazer 
coming into tne barber shop of the swank 
Colony Plaza Hotel at the same time. He 
swung his chair — Number Eight — invitingly 
to Frazer. Not that he had anything against 
Garvey ; it was just that Mr. Frazer, who was 



reputed to own a flock of Mexican gold mines, 
was a liberal tipper ; and when a guy is plan- 
ning on marrying a cute little manicurist like 
Tillie Brady, he has to look at things like that. 
Snips saw Mr. Frazer give him the nod and 
stepped back politely, glanced down the gleam- 
ing shop to where Tillie's fluffy golden head 

85 



86 



WILLIAM ROUGH 



was bent demurely over a customer's hands. 
She didn't notice Snips because she kept her 
mind on her work, and her nail file was brisk. 

Snips grinned happily, then stiffened. Lew 
Polio, the shop manager, had seen him glanc- 
ing at Tillie, and the dapper man's dark eyes 
glittered hotly. He danced forward, caught 
Mr. Frazer's plump arm and simpered, "Take 
Number Four, sir." 

Mr. Frazer shrugged amiably and pulled his 
favorite gag. "Long and fluffy on top, bar- 
ber, sheik style around the ears." He was bald 
as a golf ball. . 

The barbers tittered politely. Not bnips. 
His small, thin features were tight. His neat, 
soft hands were knots at the sides of his 
starched white coat. Lew Polio couldn't fire 
him because Snips rated the job, after three 
years in the army; but Lew was trying to 
make things so miserable that Snips would 
quit. By rights, Snips rated Chair Three. Lew 
had stuck him at the end on Number Eight, 
sneering that a thin-haired squirt was bad ad- 
vertising for any barber shop and Snips should 
keep out of sight towards the back. 

Lew steered every good tipper away from 
Snips, made dirty cracks and wasn't even 
above bumping Snips' arm when he was shav- 
ing someone and then hissing, "Butcher !" 

But this was the blow-off. Snips started for 
him. Lew wanted him to quit, so okay, he 
would. But he'd do it up brown — he'd smash 
Lew's nose all over his olive-skinned puss. 

Hard fingers closed on Snips' biceps. It was 
the house man, Garvey. "Shave," he grunt- 
ed. "Snap it up!" 

It still wouldn't have been enough to stop 
Snips, by itself; but just then Tillie finished 
her party and looked up with a smile that was 
all for him. That stopped him. He guessed it 
would always make him catch his breath when 
Tillie smiled for him. She was blonde, blue- 
eyed, red-lipped, just five feet two and every- 
thing that he wanted. If he lost the job, it 
would take just that much longer to get to- 
gether a nest egg for Tillie. 

He pulled his smarting eyes away from Lew 
Polio, slung a bib around Garvey's leathery 
neck and stropped his razor, making the steel 
"slap-slap" the leather viciously. He caught 
himself. No use taking it out on the fine Swiss 
steel. It was the keenest and best balanced 
razor in the shop; a GI pal had picked it up 
overseas for Snips. Snips hadn't got out of 
the country himself. He'd cut hair at Camp 
Pickett all the time, which made him a little 
bashful about wearing his discharge button. 
He carried it in his wallet, though, just in 
case anybody doubted him. 

He brandished the razor, blurted wildly, 
"Wouldn't I just like to get Lew Polio under 
this!" 

"Huh?" Garvey's shrewd eyes bored up at 



him forja second. Then Garvey laughed. It 
was funny — then ! 

Snips got Garvey out of the chair finally 
and slid down the aisle to whisper to Tillie, 
"Honey, that green smock makes you look like 
a million." Lew Polio's glittering eyes fol- 
lowed him every inch of the way, but the man 
said nothing t : .ll he was on his way up to the 
hotel to shave Gordon Maxe, a bigshot guest. 
Then he stopped at Tillie's table and hissed 
something. Tillie's eyes flashed wide. Her 
soft mouth trembled. Snips knew that Lew 
had made another crack of some kind. There 
was only one thing to do : poke Lew and take 
Tillie out of this shop ! 

Snips would have raced after Lew and done 
it right there, only he had someone in his 
chair. He no sooner got rid of him than an- 
other customer plopped down. 

Snips' scissors clicked, his razor flashed, his 
hands dug the customer's scalp. While he was 
working, the telephone rang. The shine boy 
answered it, announced, "Fo' Mist' Garvey. 
That Mrs. Lockridge Burnard on twenty-two 
say a fight goin' on outside her door." 

Mr. Frazer whooped from under a hot towel, 
"Hurry it up, son ! I gotta be a knight to the 
rescue of my lady fair ! " He laughed like it 
was a good one, and Snips_ recalled shop gos- 
sip about the wealthy, widowed Mrs. Burnard 
trying to buy a piece of Mr. Frazer's gold 
mines. She'd had her cap set for Gordon 
Maxe till Mr. Frazer showed up, then she'd 
switched to him. 

It didn't mean anything to Snips. He 
whisked the bib off his party and scooted down 
to Tillie. "Hon, what did. Lew say to you?" 

"Forget it, Snipsy." But her smile was 
tight. 

"You tell me!" Snips burst. 

"Don't you order me around! We're not 
married yet!" Tillie flared. "Oh, all right, 
then. He said he wants a date with me to- 
night or he — he'll give me notice." 

Snips whirled. 

Tillie squeaked, "Snipsy, what are you go- 
ing to do?" 

<*"DUST Lew's nose and take you out of 
■*-*here!" Snips yelled, shucking his white 
coat, as he skidded back to his chair. He' 
slapped his razor into its case, shoved it into 
his hip pocket ; he knew he wouldn't be work- 
ing in this shop any more. He grabbed his 
street coat, crammed his natty white Panama 
hat down hard and charged through the door 
that led up to the huge marble hotel lobby. He 
was five feet five, a hundred and forty pounds, 
but people got out of his way. 

Lew Polio would be finished shaving Gor- 
don Maxe by this time and had probably 
sneaked down to his own room for a drink, 
or something. Snips barged into an elevator 



DEAD MEN D6N'T BLEED 



87 



cab, snapped, "Fifteen!" The elevator oper- 
ator, Carl Pence, shuffled. "What you going 
up there for, Snips?" He wore a natty blue 
tunic and trousers, which failed to smarten up 
his pimpled face and receding chin. Snips 
ddin't answer. His heels dug marks in the 
luxurious carpeting when he sprang out on 
the fifteenth floor. He got to Lew Polio's 
door and spanked it with tight knuckles. 

There was no answer and Snips shouted, 
"I know you're in there! Open up!" He 
grabbed the doorknob, rattled it. It gave. The 
door opened — and, yes, Lew was inside, all 
right. He'd be inside from now on — inside 
a grave. 

Snips didn't understand it right off. All he 
saw was Lew's crumpled figure on the floor. 
Lew's white coat was mussed and awry. His 
dark eyes were wide open. His olive skin 
was pasty. 

Snips was paralyzed for a second, then he 
started forward. He didn't try to dive, but 
that's what he did — headfirst into the floor. 
The reason was that he was helped from 
behind. By a sap, or something equally brutal. 
It caught him behind the ear and he plunged 
into blackness. 

Snips dreamed that Tillie was giving him 
a manicure. He felt liquid nail polish on his 
fingers. It wouldn't dry right, it seemed, and 
finally Tillie applied quick-drying fluid on top 
of it with little cotton swabs and then, of all 
things, put the cotton in Snips' mouth. 

He sputtered, tried to spit it out. It clung 
to his lips, and the liquid on his fingers still 
didn't dry; it got sticky. 

Suddenly he sat up and bleared at his hands. 
He groaned. What was wrong with Tillie, 
putting red polish on a man's nails! Well, 
that would come off quick. Snips swiped his 
hands on his pants. The polish wasn't dry, at 
that, and wiped off easily. But it made sticky 
streaks on the backs of his fingers and these 
picked up cotton. There was cotton still in his 
mouth, too, darn it. Snips blew, saw a piece 
of it dance off his lips and float airily. 

He ■scowled. Who ever heard of a cotton 
swab floating in the air ? His eyes focussed, 
then he understood : it wasn't cotton at all ; it 
was a feather. 

Sure, there were feathers clinging to his 
hands, too. Now where in heck had they come 
from ? 

He tried to stand, slopped on his face. He 
pushed up on hands and knees and smelled a 
strong aromatic odor of some kind. He saw 
where it came from — Lew Polio's white bar- 
ber jacket. He couldn't help seeing. His face 
was only six inches from Lew now, and Lew 
had red nail polish on his neck. Lots of red 
nail polish, a crimson lake of it. 

"Mother Mary!" Snips burst and put all 
his strength into pushing away. He fell back, 



scrambled to his feet, lungs laboring. It wasn't 
nail polish on Lew Polio's neck at all — it was 
red," red blood ! It came from a gash that 
made a semi-circle under Lew's chin from 
jawline to jawline. Someone had cut Lew's 
throat ! 

Snips caught at the bed to keep from floun- 
dering. It seemed that there was no place to 
put his feet except in blood and feathers. The 
room was a shambles, as if a rugged fight had 
taken place, and the feathers came from a 
bursted pillow. 

They were strewn all over the carpet and 
furniture. The free ones swirled in the air 
currents, but the ones that had touched the 
red liquid, especially under Lew's chin, had 
stuck and clung. 

Snips' breathing stopped, then he gagged. 
He'd heard of men being tarred and feathered 
— Lew Polio was bloodied and feathered! 

Ships wanted out — fast ! He lurched toward 
the door. Then he saw it. The razor beside 
Lew's body. His razor ! 

Snips clutched at his hip pocket, but it 
wasn't necessary. He knew that the razor 
couldn't be in two places at the same time. If 
it was on the floor beside Lew, it couldn't be 
in its case. Nor was it. Snips spied the case 
across the room. He felt numb. Lew's throat 
had been slashed with Snips' own razor. 

The door crashed open behind Snips. Gar- 
vey's gravel voice ordered, "Don't move, 
boy!" A second later, he grunted, "McGlynn, 
I'll be damned ! You meant it when you said 
you'd like to cut his throat ! " 

"No!" Snips screamed. "I didn't! I didn't 
mean it and I didn't do it He was like that 
when I came in ! Only his throat wasn't cut 1" 

"Hagh!" Garvey spat. 

Snips wailed, " Honest, Garvey ! Somebody 
knocked me out and used my razor." 

"You admit it's your razor?" Garvey shot. 

"You'd find out, anyhow," Snips gulped. "I 
had it in my pocket. I was going to quit 
working at the shop, so I brought it along." 

Garvey sandpapered a leathery cheek 
thoughtfully. "That's it, then. You came up 
here to even things with Lew before you quit. 
The room here says you had a good fight. He 
started to get the best of you and you pulled 
the razor." 

/^ARVEY nodded, satisfied. Snips trembled. 
*-* He was caught sweet. Garvey, or any cop 
for that matter, would swear he had motive, 
opportunity and the weapon. The best lawyer 
in the country couldn't argue those away, even 
if Snips put himself in debt for years to hire 
one. 

Garvey said glumly, "Open and shut, dam- 
mit!" 

Snips' brain whirled. Garvey once had run 
. his own detective agency but hadn't made out 



88 



WILLIAM ROUGH 



He was biding his time as house dick here at 
the Colony Plaza, hoping for a big case so 
that he'd get his name in the papers and be 
able to capitalize on it and start up for himself 

ag "Garveyl" Snips blurted. "Listen, if you 
arrest me, the casell be closed right away. 
There won't be any publicity for you at all. 
But if you let me get away and then catch me, 
it'll be better for you. Honest to Gawd I won't 
run out on you. Ill meet you anywhere you 
say, just so I get a chance to find the guy 
who really did this. Will you do it, Garvey? 
Please!" * 

The house dick's eyes flickered. Snips could 

see that Garvey was weighing the proposition. 

« Honest, Garvey, I'll keep in touch with 

you!" Snips promised. "What brought you 

up here, anyhow?" 

Garvey grunted. "Somebody called down 
and said there was noise here. I didn't hurry. 
Had another call about noise from Mrs. Burn- 
ard a while back and there was no sign of it 
when I got to her floor." 

"But there wasn't any noise here," Snips 
cried. "Look ! The furniture is turned over, 
but it's not broken. There wasn't any fight. 
Lew was out cold on the floor when I came 
in and the room was okay. Somebody slugged 
me, then made it look like there'd been a fight 
and cut Lew's throat. It must have happened 
that way! Give me a fair shake, Garvey." 

Garvev's gun hand relaxed a little. He 
frowned," still trying to make up his mind. 
"Please!" Snips pleaded. 
Garvey scowled, shook his head. "Nup. 
Can't do. I want a build up, not down. They'd 
ride hell out of me for letting a squirt like 
you lam." _ . , 

Snips clenched his fists, opened his mouth 
to argue some more. He closed it, felt his 
shoulders sag. It was no use. He was licked. 
"No!" he yelled— and jumped Garvey. 
He was operating on instinct now. He'd 
tried to use his head and ifc hadn't worked. 
His fists Were all that were left. He wasn't 
big, but he was compact and wiry, and he had 
strength in his wrists and forearms. 

Too_ Garvey wasn't expecting action and 
had eased up. There was more surprise than 
pain in his first, "Oof!" as Snips' left hooked 
into his jaw. 

Snips felt his knuckles on the bone of Gar- 
Tey's face, struck again. The house man spat 
a curse, pulled back and slashed out with his 
gun barrel. It raked Snips' collar bone. 

Snips bleated in pain, felt himself careen 
off balance and start down. He flung out both 
hands, trying to grab Garvey anywhere. He 
missed Garvey's waist and chest, but his arms 
were still out in a half circle when his knees 
hit the floor. His soft, but strong, hands 
scraped %wn Garvey's thighs. Snips felt the 



man's legs getting thinner as he dropped his 
hands. When he got to Garvey's ankles, they 
were thin enough to hang onto. Snips hung. 

Then he felt Garvey lurch. He yanked on 
both Garvey's ankles. Garvey spilled back- 
wards. The floor shook as the house cop's 
beam hit it He howled and thrashed around. 
Snips sent strength to his knees and came up. 
He kicked just once, straight and true, and 
sent Garvey's .38 clunking across the room. 
Then he made tracks. 

Out the door, down the corridor. Down the 
first flight of front stairs. Around the cor- 
ridor on the next landing and back to the serv- 
ice stairs. Snips knew the hotel layout of old. 
He was twisting and backtracking instinctive- 
ly but driving ever closer to the ground floor 
exits. 

CHAPTER TWO 

A Helping Hand 

rPHEN it hit him: he'd started on the fif- 
•*• teenth floor. All Garvey had needed to do 
was call the desk and warn the other house 
cops. They'd be deployed in the lobby and 
even at the rear of the hotel, and one of them 
them would be outside wising up the patrol- 
men in the vicinity. The second Snips put 
foot outside, if he got that far, he'd be shot 
at or slugged. 

He cowered on a staircase. He had to hide 
in the hotel, at least till the hunt died down. 
What else could he do? 

His breathing, he knew, was loud enough to 
attract attention from anyone near him. He 
tried to stop it, control it, but it was no good. 
By a miracle, his white Panama hat hadn't 
slid off through it all ; it was because he didn't 
have much hair and he always pulled it on 
tight. He took it off now, held it over his 
mouth to cut down the wheeze of his lungs. 
It didn't help. 

"They think I'm on the way down!" he 
panted. "I'll go up\" 

He reversed his field, pumped back up the 
stairs. One flight. Two flights. He was back 
on twelve again. There was no thirteenth 
floor in a hotel, so the next one was numbered 
fourteen. Snips halted, flesh crawling. He 
couldn't risk passing fifteen again: the floor 
would be alive with house cops. He shivered. 
Where could a guy hide? One of the rooms, 
sure, but which one ? 

Snips breathed, "Mr. Frazer lives in 1407! 
And he's not in!" The jolly, bald man had 
left the barber shop to go to Mrs. Bumard's 
suite on twenty-two, Snips remembered. He 
didn't think any further than that. Mr. Frazer 
was the kind of guy who'd leave his door un- 
locked, too. All Snips wanted was sanctuary 
till his heart stopped pounding. 



He scuttled up the remaining steps to four- 
teen, scanned the corridor, found it empty and 
slid down to 1407. The door was unlocked. 
Snips went into the suite like a gopher whisk- 
ing into a hole. He leaned his shivery back 
against the door and tried to keep his remain- 
ing strength from dribbling away. His lungs 
made harsh laboring sounds, then quieted a 
little, and something suspiciously like a sob 
trickled from his parched lips. What was he 
to do now? 

His knees were too wobbly to support him. 
He flopped in a chair. There was no meaning 
to it, yet he'd been framed for Lew Polio's 
murder. Why? Why would anyone want to 
kill Lew in the first place? That the killer 
would frame someone who didn't get along 
with Lew was understandable enough, but why 
kill him in the first place? Miserable as Lew 
had been, he hadn't seemed the type to get 
his throat cut. 

"Unless there was something crooked about 
him being flush lately," Snips mumbled to 
himself. Lew made a good salary as shop 
manager, but the past few weeks he'd been 
spending plenty. He'd bought new suits and 
had taken a suite here in the hotel, and he'd 
bought a new car. "He must have been in 
something crooked," Snips nodded. "He'd 
had a fight, or something, with the guys he's 
in it with and they rubbed him out, then saw 
a chance to frame me and did it. " 

Snips nodded vigorously. After Lew had 
shaved Gordon Maxe and come to his own 
room, he'd met someone who had slugged 
him. This someone had either stayed inside 
the room or waited around outside and, see- 
ing Snips stomp up to Lew's door, had got- 
ten him, then cut Lew's throat with Snips' 
razor and faked a fight scene which was 
plenty realistic. 

Snips recalling the bloody feathers, shivered. 
He saw three or four of them still clinging to 
his jacket and pants. He snatched them off, 
and saw that his hands were still sticky, 
though there wasn't too much blood on his 
clothing. He started for the bathroom to get 
the stuff cleaned off. He brushed the red-dyed 
feathers into the commode. One of them missed 
it. Snips picked it out of the air, felt it be- 
tween thumb and forefinger. Something 
clanged warningly in his head. 

He fingered the feather, searched his pants 
for another, found one in a cuff. He com- 
pared the two. One was dry and clean and 
softly brittle. The other seemed more pliable, 
moistish and soiled. 

TT WAS important, Snips knew, without 
quite knowing why. He cudgeled his brain 
for the answer but couldn't grasp it. He 
wrapped the feathers in a handkerchief start- 
ed to wash up. He was a little steadier now, 



DEAD MEN DON'T BLEED 



89 



which was lucky— for suddenly a nattily uni- 
formed man had come up behind him. 

Snips saw the man's pimpled face and re- 
ceding chin in the mirror over the washbowl 
as the man jumped him. It was Carl Pence, 
the elevator operator. 
"Gotcha, Snips!" Carl yelled. 
Snips had a bar of soap in his hand. He 
writhed around and smacked it wetly at the 
pimples. He missed the first time and Carl 
Pence opened his mouth in a laugh. 

Snips jabbed out again with the bar of 
soap. It traveled straight and true and 
rammed into Carl's mouth, right back to his 
tonsils. Carl tried to choke it out, failed, and 
clawed at it. He had only one hand free. 
Snips batted it aside and whipped a stinger to 
Carl's stomach. That kicked the soap out of 
Carl's mouth, together with a tortured, 
"Ughl-1-11" 

"You want jnore, Carl?" Snips challenged, 
breaking clean and cocking his fists. 

Carl shrank away, blubbering soapy saliva 
that drooled down on his neat blue tunic. He 
made no effort to continue brawling. In fact, 
he looked at Snips as if he'd bitten off more 
than he could chew. 

Snips stuck out his chest. He wasn't used 
to such respect. "Punk!" he leered at Carl. 
How did you know I was in Mr. Frazer's 
suite?" 

"I didn't, honest!" Ca"rl snatched a towel 
and swabbed his chin. His pale eyes were 
skittery. "I just came in to see Mr. Frazer 
about . . . something. I seen you here and 
knew the cops are after you." 

"So you thought you'd be a big shot and 
nab me," Snips cut in. "You thought I'd be 
easy. What did you want to see Mr. Frazer 
about?" 

Carl eyed the door, took a step toward it. 
Snips stepped in front of him, fists ready. 
"Tell me, smart guy," he ordered. 

Carl bit his lip. "Garvey thinks maybe Mr. 
Frazer heard you in the barber shop when 
you threatened to cut Lew's throat. I said 
I'd come up and get Mr. Frazer, is all." 

Snips cried, "I didn't threaten to cut Lew's 
throat! I was just burned up and made a 
crack! Jeez, a guy don't have a chance!" 

He quivered. This was always what hap- 
pened when you shot off your mouth. For a 
second, he knew what it was like to hate cops 
and the way they built up a case against you. 
Garvey would get fat, jolly Mr. Frazer to 
swear he had heard the threat, and Mr. Frazer 
was just the kind of guy a jury would cer- 
tainly believe. 

Snips burst, "But a jury would believe Mr. 
Frazer if he was for me, too ! I gotta see him 
first!" 

Snips started to turn, remembered Carl. He 
couldn't let Carl walk out and run for Garvey. 






■■.v <m 



mmmm 



i.i. na-j-w*-*-jp. 



wm^a^c^ 



90 



WILLIAM ROUGH 



He wet his lips. "Hey, look at yourself in the 
mirror, Carl." 

"Huh?" Carl turned curiously. Snips hit 
him behind the ear smartly with the edge of 
a stiff palm. He'd never had any jiu jitsui 
training himself, but he'd seen other GI's 
practising it and had wanted to try it. He 
watched Carl Pence crumple. "Boy," he mar- 
veled, "it sure works!" 

He was going to let Carl lay and just lock 
the bathroom door. But Mr. Frazer was up 
in Mrs. Bumard's suite on the twenty-second 
floor, and Snips had to get up there without 
attracting attention. He peeked out into the 
corridor, saw Carl's elevator cab with the 
door open, and went back and pulled off the 
man's Wue uniform coat and trousers. He got 
into them himself, dragged Carl out of the 
bathroom to a bedroom closet and tied him 
with Mr. Frazer's shoe laces. A few moments 
later he was zooming up in the elevator. 

He skinned the car doors open on the 
twenty-second floor and rapped on 2212. Mrs. 
Lockridge Burnard opened the door herself. 
She was small, blonde, well-dressed, and for 
a second Snips hoped that Tillie would hold up 
as well when she was fifty. Then Mrs. Burn- 
ard said, "Yes?" and looked back over her 
shoulder and giggled, and Snips changed his 
mind. He didn't want Tillie ever to become 
coy. 

He said, "Is Mr. Frazer here, ma'am? I 
gotta see him." 

Mrs. Bumard's brows climbed. Snips de- 
cided they were much too dark and slinky; 
sne didn't spare the make-up. "Really," she 
began. 

MR. FRAZER'S voice boomed, "Yowsuh, 
I'm here, son. What do you want?" 

Snips slid past the woman. She looked 
petulantly at Frazer. "Horace, can't we be 
alone?" 

"Shucks, honey, the kid's in trouble," Mr. 
Frazer said. "Bet he's got the same kind of 
trouble as us — he's in love." 

Mrs. Burnard tittered. "The poor thing!" 

Snips blurted, "That's not all of it, though ! 
They think I cut Lew Polio's throat! They 
want you to testify that you heard me say I'd 
do it in the barber shop, Mr. Frazer. You 
won't, will you?" 

Mrs. Burnard screamed, "Horace — how 
awful ! Call the police !" 

"Sh'h!" Mr. Frazer's pink jowls were 
grave. "Now whafs this all about?" 

Snips rushed through his story while Mrs. 
Burnard fluttered and gasped. Mr. Frazier 
polished his bald head with a lavender hand- 
kerchief no bigger than a bath mat. 

He said, "Well, son, I didn't hear you 
threaten to cut this Polio's throat." 

Snips gulped, "Gee, thanks. I — " 



Mr. "Frazier frowned. "But I don't see that 
it'll do much good. Your best bet it to give 
yourself up and — " 

"I wouldn't have a chance!" Snips bleated. 
"I've got to find something that will clear 
me!" 

"Horace, I'm going to call the police !" Mrs. 
Burnard cried. 

, "Hush, Lambykins," Mr. Frazier cajoled. 
"The boy is innocent. We've got to help 
him." He pinched his jowls thoughtfully. "Ill 
bet Gordon Maxe would know what to do." 

"Horace!" Mrs. Burnard protested. "You 
know I dislike that man! You said yourself 
that he wasn't to be trusted. Remember ? You 
suspected that he was just being nice to me 
to sell me stock in a worked-out gold mine." 

"True, true," Mr. Frazer admitted. "But 
I knew him in Mexico and he's had legal ex- 
perience — so long as we're on guard against 
him we're safe.' He turned to Snips. "Come 
along, son, and we'll see Mr. Maxe. He's 
shrewd, and he'll advise you what to do just 
in the hope that it will put him in solid with 
me and Mrs. Burnard." 

Snips licked his lips. He didn't know what 
to do. But when Mr. Frazer slung a friendly 
arm over his shoulders and steered him 
toward the door, he went along. Mr. Frazer 
had the right idea, maybe. You can't always 
get out of trouble by yourself; you've got to 
look for men who know the ropes. 

"He's on twenty-eight," Mr. Frazer said, 
in the corridor. 

"I've got an elevator," Snips said. "I met 
Carl Pence, the operator, in your suite, sir, 
and — Please don't get sore — I tied him up in 
your closet." 

Mr. Frazer's jaws could get hard, in spite 
of their fat. "I don't know as I like that, 
son," he growled. "What were either one of 
you doing in my place?" 

"I went there to hide," Snips said apol- 
ogetically. "He said he came up to take you 
to Garvey as a witness against me. I couldn't 
let him walk out then, could I?" 

"But they'll notice his elevator isn't run- 
ning and — " Mr. Frazer broke off, eyeing the 
elevator indicators. One of them hovered at 
22 even now. 

Snips saw it and jerked, looked wildly up 
and down the corridor. The door of a mop 
closet was a great deal closer than the ele- 
vator bank. Snips dived for it, hissing, 
"Maybe somebody's coming to see why the cab 
is stuck on this floor." 

He was right. He'd no sooner pulled the 
closet door nearly shut than an elevator 
operator got out of his cab and peered at Carl 
Pence's car. 

"Hey, mister," the man called to Mr. 
Frazer, "seen anything of the guy who runs 
this crate?" 



DEAD MEN DON'T BLEED 



91 

tied up in my suite. Tell you what, he can 
probably be bought, can't he?" 

Snips nodded. 

"Good," Mr. Frazer said. "If I'm going to 
help you, I want to do it right. Shuck out of 
that uniform, son, and I'll untie Pence and give 
it back to him. I'll pay him to keep his mouth 
shut for a couple hours at least and bring your 
own clothes up here to you." 

Snips hesitated. It sounded logical, yet . . . 

Mr. Frazer advised, "Maybe Mr. Maxe will 
think your best bet is to get out of the hotel, 
and you wouldn't get far in that uniform 
without somebody spotting you." 

It was the clinching argument. Snips pulled 
off the natty blue tunic, stepped out of the 
trousers. Mr. Frazer scooped them up. "If 
Maxe comes back before I do, son, just tell 
him your story and that I brought you here. 
Keep your chin out now. " 

Mr. Frazer shut the door. Snips stood in 
the middle of the sitting room in his jockey 
shorts and shirt. He shivered, but not from 
lack of clothing. He realized that he'd en- 
trusted Mr. Frazer with his fate, and every- 
thing now depended on the fat man. 

There was Gordon Maxe, too. Snips won- 
dered again what kind of man Maxe was. 
Maybe he'd refuse to help. Maybe he'd take 
one look at Snips and call Garvey. Mr. 
Frazer seemed like a jovial sort who'd give a 
man a hand, but that didn't prove Maxe would. 

There was nothing to do but wait and see. 
Snips paced back and forth. He felt like look- 
ing for a dressing gown or something, but if 
Maxe came in and saw him wearing his cloth- 
ing it might rub him the wrong way. The 
best thing was to look helpless, maybe. 

But there was no trick to looking helpless, 
Snips knew. That was exactly how he felt. He 
tried again to figure out what had tightened 
him up earlier when the elevator operator 
who had come looking for Carl had men- 
tioned chickens being stolen in the kitchen. 
Suddenly he had an idea. He went to the tele- 
phone and called the barber shop, asked for 
Tillie. When she answered, then gasped, 
"Oh, honey, I'm so worried about you ! " Snips 
felt ashamed that he hadn't got in touch with 
her sooner. She certainly had known that he 
was being hunted as a murderer. 

"lyiLLIE, I didn't do it!" he gulped. 
•*■ "Whatever they say, I didn't do it !" 
"Honey, I know you didn't! I trust you, 
Snipsy! But what did happen? Where are 
you?" 

Snips said automatically, "I'm in Gordon 
Maxe's suite, hon. I've been framed for Lew's ' 
murder. I want you to do something for me. 
Find out what happened in the kitchen, will 
you? Somebody stole chickens, I think, but 
find out. See who it was and what's going on, 



"No, son, I haven't," Mr. Frazer replied. 

The elevator operator sighed, "He'll get 
hell for loafing around. I'll report his cab 
up here. Everything happens at once, don't it ? 
A barber cuts a guy's throat ; they catch a guy 
stealing chickens in the kitchen; and with 
cops all over the place Carl has to lay down 
on the job." 

The man clanged his doors again. Mr. 
Frazer caded softly, "Okay, son." 

CHAPTER THREE 
Jaws of the Trap 

"DUT Snips' head was whirling. Something 
■ L * was trying to click into place. It was 
the mention of chickens being stolen in the 
kitchen that had tightened him up. There was 
no sense to it, yet some deep intuition was at 
work. Snips shook his head. The feathers 
all around Lew Polio's body must have made 
him sensitive to anything that smacked of 
them, such as chickens. 

"Hurry, son," Mr- Frazer urged. 

"Yessir." Snips started out of the closet, 
skidded a little, caught himself. He saw that 
he'd slipped on white powder that had spilled 
from a can of deodorant. He smelled the 
familiar tang of the strong aromatic odor, but 
it wasn't until he and Mr. Frazer were shoot- 
ing up in the elevator that it connected. He 
blurted, "Why that's the same stuff I smelled 
on Lew Polio's coat in the room when I 
found him ! " 

"Whassat, son?" Mr. Frazer said. 

Snips shook his head. "I don't know, sir, 
honest. There's something I should be able 
to figure out, but I can't. What was going on 
outside Mrs. Burnard's suite when she called 
for Garvey?" 

Mr. Frazies waved carelessly. "She said 
she heard a fight there, but no one saw any- 
thing and she hadn't looked out herself. Here's 
Maxe's floor." 

Snips tried to swallow the lump under his 
tongue as he followed Mr. Frazer to 2805. He 
had to trust someone, he supposed, but he'd 
never seen this Gordon Maxe and Mr. Frazer 
himself had told Mrs. Burnard that Maxe was 
trying to promote phony mine stock. 

Mr. Frazer opened the door, calling, "Gor- 
don ! " There was no answer and the fat man 
peered into the bedroom, came back frowning. 
"Maxe must have stepped out, son," he told 
Snips. "M'm, but we can't leave that ele- 
vator car on this floor or someone will come 
snooping. Suppose you wait here while I get 
rid of it." 

Snips swallowed. "All r-right, sir." 

Mr. Frazer waddled toward the-xorridor 
door again, paused. "Another thing," he said 
thoughtfully. "We can't let Carl Pence stay 



92 



WILLIAM ROUGH 



hpn. Hurry! Call me back here, or I'll call 
you, " 
"I'll do it, Snipsy, but—" 
Snips didn't hear the rest. He sensed the 
corridor door opening, saw a lean black shoe- 
string of a man slipping in and pronged the 
telephone. He kept his hand on it, though. 
It was the only weapon handy. 

He stuttered, "Y-you're— Are you Mr. 
Maxe?" 

The man's deep-sunk dark eyes were glitter- 
ing coals. His lips, under a slash of black 
mustache, scarcely ; moved as he purred, 
- "That's the name I'm using at the present, 
yes." His gaze raked Snips' bare shanks. 
"And you are our little patsy, I take it. I 
met Frazer outside and he told me he left you 
here. You'll do nicely, little man." 

"Ill do— nicely!" Snips cried. "I'm your 
patey! I d-don't know what you m-mean!" 
The lean dark man snicked the lock on the 
door with a flat, metallic sound. He came 
toward Snips, his long thin arms flexing like 
the feelers on a skinny black bug. The deep 
grooves running from the corners of his thin 
lips to his nostrils told that he was no longer 
young, yet his hair was black and thick and 
bushy. 

He said silkily, "Don't you understand, little 
man?" 

Snips started to breath faster. "I do under- 
stand. I understand some of it, anyhow. You 
and Mr. Frazer are in something together. 
Mrs. Burnard said that Mr. Frazer told her 
not to trust you, but that was just a gag. He 
brought me right up here for some reason." 
Maxe grinned. "An old dodge, but still 
effective," he said. "Frazer throws suspicion 
on me and Mrs. Burnard thinks he rescued 
her and trusts him more." 

Snips' nerves were screaming, but he could- 
n't move. "You and Frazer are after Mrs. 
Burnard's money!" he squeaked. "But where 
did Lew Polio come in ? You killed him, didn't 
you?" 

"Why, not at all," Maxe murmured. "Mur- 
der is a crime. You killed Polio. You slit 
his throat. Garvey found you right there 
hut let you get away— I should have slugged 
you harder, little man!" 

Snips felt goose pimples on his bare arms 
and shoulders. He crouched. 

"Careful," Maxe warned. Leisurely, he took 
a compact revolver from under his shouldsr, 
slanted it at Snips. "It will look as if you got 
away from Garvey," he explained softly, "and 
then Carl Pence spotted you and tried to take 
you and you pushed him out of a window." 

Snips choked, "Pushed him out of a win- 
dow! That's a lie! I tied him up in Mr 
Frazer's suite, and he's still there !" 

Maxe glanced at the watch on his skinny 
wrist. "Suppose you look out the window." 



Snips-stared. 

"Go ahead," Maxe encouraged. "Frazer's 
had enough time to get back to his suite and 
do it" 

Snips was fascinated. He moved jerkily 
to the window, opened it. Twenty-eight stories 
below a crowd had gathered in the street, 
rraddlmg around a motionless thing on the 
pavement. The thing had been human but 
was now pulp. Snips couldn't make out the 
pMnpled face and receding chin but he recog- 
nized Carl Pence's natty blue uniform. He 
shut his bugging eyes hard, pushed away 
from the window. 

Maxe said regretfully, "If only it weren't 
crowding things, I could have shoved you on 
out after him just now. As it is, I want to wait 
a while so it'll look as if you couldn't stand 
being hunted and cracked up and jumped." 

Snips pressed his fists against his temples 

^ a H^V m i ght " Whv did y°" have to 
kill Carl?" he husked. "He was only an ele- I 
vator boy." 

Maxe's thin shoulders moved negligently. 
I lined him up the first day I was in the hotel 
as a kid who'd like to make a dollar. When 
I needed an elevator today, I buzzed him, 
Hashed some dough in front of him and he was 
mine. 

CNIPS cried, "You needed an elevator to 
take Lew Polio from the mop closet on , 
22 to his room on IS! That's it! Yeah! And 1 
later on when Carl saw me go to Lew's room ! 
he reported to you. You hurried down and ! 
slugged me and framed me." 

Maxe stroked his thick black mustache with 
a yellow thumbnail. "Pence was up to Ms 
neck the minute he let me use his elevator. I 
After tiiat he had to string along. The fool 
bungled when he stole the chicken, though ' 
and I knew that the minute the Johns worked : 
on him hed sing. Thanks for tying him up 
in Frazer's closet for us." 

Snips couldn't^ keep his eyes off Maxe's, 
mustache and thick black hair. Suddenly he 
saw it. He burst, "That mustache is phony, 
and you re wearing a wig. You're disguised ! 
Now I know why Lew Polio had lots of money 
lately ! And why you killed him ! And where 
and when!" 

"Tell it to Saint Peter," Maxe mocked. His 
lean fingers lifted his gun abruptly. "Get into 
that bathroom ! " he lashed. 

Snips cursed through his tears, slammed the 
bathroom door viciously, turned the knob that 
controlled the belt. 

Maxe called, "You're right where I want 
you, punk. All Frazer has to do to bust that 
door in is lean on it." 

Snips put his head against the cool tile 
of the bathroom wall, pounded with a fist, im- 



DEAD MEN DON'T BLEEP 

potently. He was trapped pretty. If only 
he could get out of here or get word to Gar- 
vey. 

He prowled the bathroom nervously, pray- 
ing for an idea. Suppose he turned the shower 
onto the floor. Wouldn't water drip through 
the ceiling of the suite underneath and get 
the tenant to complain ? 

He shook his head. The Colony Plaza was 
a well constructed building. It would take 
hours for water to seep through the tile of 
the bathroom floor and the plaster of the ceil- 
ing below. 

There was no window in the bathroom, 
either, no chance to throw something into the 
street to attract attention. The only way was 
the way he'd come in, and Snips knew he 
wouldn't travel three steps. 

There wasn't even anything he could throw. 
Maxe's bathroom was almost as barren as if 
he'd just walked into the suite. His shaving 
kit lay on the little shelf over the washbowl 
and that was all. He'd probably put it out 
but never used it, since he'd enveigled Lew 
Polio into shaving him. Snips opened the 
shaving kit absently. The straight razor was 
of fair quality, but not nearly as fine as Snips' 
razor, which was probably marked Exhibit A 
by now. 

Snips put his ear against the door. There 
was silence beyond, but he was sure Maxe 
hadn't left by any means. Suddenly there was 
a faint knock. A chair scraped in the bed- 
room. Snips realized that Frazer was back 
and had knocked at the corridor door. Maxe 
was going to let him in. 

Snips waited a second till he figured Maxe 
was out of the bedroom, walking toward the 
corridor door. He shot back the bolt on the 
bathroom door, peeked out just as Maxe 
opened the corridor door. He expected to see 
Frazer's belly crowd through the door, but 
what he saw made his blood run cold. At any 
other time, Tillie Brady's blonde head, trim 
legs and neat green smock would have made 
him glow — but not now ! He held his breath, 
praying that Maxe would get rid of her, that 
Maxe could get rid of her. He knew Tillie 
: was stubborn and — 

CHAPTER FOUR 

The Razor's Edge 

TTE froze. Maxe had shot out a clawing 
■" hand and grabbed TiJlie's wrist. He 
pulled her roughly inside. 

He whirled, snatched the razor off the 
. shelf, flicked it open. w 

He was white hot inside, but suddenly cool 
on the surface. He tiptoed to the bedroom 





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door, snatching a pillow off the bed on the 
way. He had his finger up to his lips when 
Tillie's blue eyes flashed over Maxe's shoul- 
der and saw him. 

She tried hard not to show surprise, but 
her lips parted and Maxe got it. He swiveled. 

Snips shot-putted the pillow at the lean 
man. It wasn't an accurate shot, but it made 
Maxe pull aside and delay his first shot a 
tenth of a second. 

It was just time enough for Snips to skin 
through the doorway so that he wasn't 
framed there, an unmissable target. It was 
the only break he could hope for. The next 
dozen steps had to be straight into the gum, 

He expected gun thunder and hot slams o» 
his body, but none came. His eyes snapped 
wide again and he choked, "Oh, hon!" Tiliie 
had thrown herself on Maxe's back and was 
clawing and scratching for all she was worth. 
Maxe heaved and flung her aside. 

Snips bawled, "You louse—!" and threw 
himself on the dark man. Maxe twisted his 
gun hand around, trying to get it up into 
Snips' midsection. Snips flicked his razor in 
a neat little arc. Maxe screamed in pain, eyes 
bulging on his dangling thumb. 

The gun hit the floor. Maxe struck at Snips 
and tried to use his knees. Snips grabbed at 
the man's hair, remembered too late that 
Maxe's hair was false. His hand came away 
with a mop of black wig. He started to drop 
it, then swished it around and stabbed it into 
Maxe's face. 

Maxe kicked and made strangling noises. 
Snips got his heel behind Maxe's ankle, 
tripped him. He could" hold Maxe by the 
clothing, but Maxe couldn't hold him. They 
went down and Snips held the wig hard on 
Maxe's mouth and nose. The dark man's 
struggles grew panicky. He was smothering. 

Snips dropped his razor and struck down 
into the wig. Maxe went limp. 

He was mouthing hot words, cursing Maxe 
and holding him tight as tight. Suddenly he 
felt Tillie's fingers pulling his shoulder. 

She cried, "Snipsy ! Snipsy, you'll kill him! 
He's unconscious already!" 

Snips shook his head, saw that it was so. 
He wrenched his hands away from Maxe} 
they'd been clawed so stiffly that it was hard ttf 
let go. He rolled off the limp figure, panting. 

This was when Frazer burst in. 

Snips heard the door open. He was on the 
floor now. He looked up and saw the fat man. 
Frazer took in the setup in one glance, clawed 
at his armpit. His snarl was more like that of 
an infuriated boar than the jovial fat man he 
had pretended to be. 

But fat he was, and a man so heavy could 
not make a lightning draw. 



DEAD MEN DON'T BLEED 

Snips had to move only a foot to get his 
hand on Maxe's gun. He did it, and even 
though he hadn't been overseas, he'd had Basic 
Training and knew how to shoot. He turned 
the gun up, butt in his hand which was hard 
on the floor, and shot three times from that 
position. All he had to do was aim at the door- 
way because Frazer filled it. Then the door- 
way was empty again and the fat man was 
huddled over on his knees, holding his clasped 
hands around his middle. He was still that way' 
when Garvey got there. 

Snips was straddling Maxe's chest when 
Garvey came in. Tillie quickly caught the 
house dick and pulled him aside so that Maxe 
didn't see him. Snips flicked his razor back and 
forth in front of Maxe's nose and slapped the 
thin man's cheeks once in a while just for 
good measure. 

"If you don't talk, I'll carve you!" Snips 
leered menacingly. 

Maxe's dark eyes were skittery. He couldn't 
see Garvey and he didn't know how far Snips 
would go. 

"You don't have to tell me," Snips said. 
"I'll tell you! My girl just told me that a guy 
was caught in the alley outside the hotel 
kitchen a while ago carrying a dead chicken 
in a bloody pillow slip. He swears an ele- 
vator boy gave it to him. That's all I needed 
to know. This hotel buys live chickens, arid 
you admitted before, that Carl Pence stole one 
for you." 

Snips looked sideways to see that Garvey's 
leathery face was intent, took a breath. "Here's 
what happened. You and Frazer were con 
men. You picked out rich widows and sold 
them phony mining stock. First you'd make 
the contact, then Frazer would show up and 
throw suspicion on you. You're not the type 
:yourself to pull the whole thing, but if Frazer 
'could make a dame think he'd rescued her 
from you, she'd go all-out for him. The catch 
is that you must be hot and you have to wear 
"a disguise." 

Snips caught a motion from Garvey out of 
the corner of his eye. Garvey was making 
-signs to show that Snips was right, and that 
he'd recognized Maxe without the wig and 
mustache. 

Snips nodded in satisfaction. "Lew Polio 
was a barber and he spotted your fake hair 
and mustache," he went on, waving the razor 
gently in front of Maxe's fascinated eyes. "He 
pulled a little blackmail on you, and you paid." 

"IVf AXE burst, "The dirty creep ! He spotted 
■"■■• my wig off sides in the elevator one day. 
The next day he showed up at my room and 
said he'd come to shave me. I could tell he 
.was wise, so we made a deal. What he "wanted 



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BA.NDui.PH A BEAVEBft573C»iumblaaBldB.,Wa«hinirtoii I, D.C. 

96 



was chicken feed compared to what we were 
going to take off Mrs. Burnard." 
"That's right," Snips nodded. "That's just 

Iw J lght °, nly later on Lew g ot w 'se and 
tftat there was big money involved. He want- 
ed a cut of that, but you tried to put him off 
He got sore and said he'd squawk to Mrs. 
Burnard. You thought he was bluffing, but he 
wasnt. And today was the day he got fed uo 
and started for Mrs. Burnard's suite to spill it. 
You must have seen that he was sorer than 
usual and followed him. When you saw that 
he was really heading for Mrs. Burnard's, you 
slugged him, right outside the door. She re- 
ported a fight, but when Garvey got there 
the corridor was empty. 'Cause why? 'Cause 
you d dragged Lew into the mop closet till you 
had time to move him. Say no !" 

Maxe's mouth hardened. Snips drew his 
lips back on his teeth in a horrible grimace, 

ch°k raZ ° r d0W " Sl ° wly * flkked Maxe ' s 

"Wait! Don't! I'll talk!" Maxe blubbered. 
You re right ! I didn't mean to kill him, damn 
lum ! I guess I just hit him too hard." 

"Yeah "Snips agreed. "I knew Lew had 
been parked in that mop closet because there 
were deodorant crystals spilled there and he 
had the same smell on his coat. It meant that 
he d been in that closet and had been flat on 
his back at the time." 

Snips settled himself comfortably on Maxe's 
stomach. "The rest of it is simple. You hired 
Larl Pence and used his elevator to take 
Lew s body to his room. You left him there 
and probably intended to- let it go. But then 
Carl saw me heading for Lew's room and told 
you, and you saw a chance to frame me. You 
came down and slugged me. My razor fell 
out of my pocket I was a barber. Why not 
make it a good frame and cut Lew's throat? 
You did, but you forgot that dead men dmi't 
bleed l 

Snips wagged his head sadly. "It must have 
been something to cut a guy's throat and not 
see any blood come out, but Lew had been 
dead long enough by that time for the blood 
to stop flowing in him. You were in a spot 
You couldn t sew his neck back together again, 
so all that was left was to get some blood 
somehow. With Carl Pence knowing the ropes 
around the hotel, you saw how it could be 
worked. Carl got a live chicken from the 
storeroom off the kitchen and you bled it over 
Lew Polio's throat and body. Am I right?" 

Maxe shrank away from the razor. 
"Y-yeah." 

Snips looked triumphantly at Garvey "Is 
that enough?" he asked. 
Garvey stepped forward. "That's plenty,"- 



DEAD MEN DON'T BLEED 

he said. "And I recognize this bird now. He's 
wanted in a couple of states." 

Maxe jerked, cursed. Snips banged the 
man's head on the floor, said, " But somebody 
spotted Carl when he stole the chicken, or any- 
how the guy he gave it to was caught. Carl 
took the chicken back downstairs in a pillow 
slip so as not to get blood on himself. He had 
to get rid of the chicken and didn't want it 
found around the kitchen. There's always 
guys hanging around the kitchen for handouts 
and stuff, and Carl just handed the chicken to 
one of them. But the guy was caught beating 
it and Carl knew the guy could identify him. 
He hurried up to Frazer's suite to ask what 
to do. That's where I got him. 

"You see, some of the feathers pulled out 
of the chicken when they were bleeding it over 
Lew's body, and in order to cover them up as 
well as get the pillow slip to take the bloody 
chicken away in, they busted a pillow and 
threw the feathers all over. I noticed that 
some of the feathers were different than the 
others. These soft pillows are filled with either 
duck or goose feathers — not chicken feathers." 

Snips told Garvey, "Maxe is the one who 
killed Lew Polio. You heard him admit it. 
But Frazer is the one who pushed Carl Pence 
out of the window. As soon as Frazer heard 
that Mrs. Burnard had reported a disturbance 
outside her door, he got in touch with Maxe, 
found out what had happened, and they worked 
together from then on. I guess that's enough 
to make it stick, huh?" 

Garvey yanked on his handcuffs. "It's 
plenty, kid." 

"You take the credit," Snips said. 

Garvey's leathery face brightened. "Well, 
that's swell of you, kid, but you rate some- 
thing out of it too." 

"I got something," Snips said and looked 
at Tillie proudly. "They ought to make me 
shop manager, too. ..." 

THE END 



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PREMIERE IS HELD AT SAN FRAN- 
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PLAYS TO MORE THAN 
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1944 -HOWARD HUGHES, world 

FAMOUS FLYER AND MOTION 
PICTURE PRODUCER, COMPLETES 

his picture THE OUTLAW. 





OUTLAW IS TRIGGER-FAST 

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JEAN HARLOW, PAUL MUNI, 
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